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Bernie Sanders Unloads On Starbucks CEO For 'Union Busting' In Epic Takedown During Senate Hearing

Sanders wasted no time during his opening statement of the Senate hearing to call out the coffee chain's CEO Howard Schultz for leading 'the most aggressive and illegal union-busting campaign in the modern history of our country.'

C-SPAN 3 screenshot of Bernie Sanders; C-SPAN 3 screenshot of Howard Schultz

Howard Schultz, the billionaire former CEO and co-founder of Starbucks, was questioned in a Senate hearing on Wednesday about allegations of union-busting by the coffee chain.

The hearing was led by Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders and Senate Democrats, who accused Starbucks of carrying out “the most aggressive and illegal union-busting campaign in the modern history of our country” over the past 18 months.

Schultz, who was present at the hearing, denied the allegations and dismissed recent rulings by administrative law judges that found otherwise. He also pushed back against being called a "billionaire" because he "grew up in federally subsidized housing."

You can hear what Sanders said in the video below.

Sanders said:

"Over the past 18 months, Starbucks has waged the most aggressive and illegal union-busting campaign in the modern history of our country. That union-busting campaign has been led by Howard Schultz, the multibillionaire founder and director of Starbucks, who is with us this morning only under the threat of subpoena."

He then went into more detail about the scale of Starbucks' union-busting efforts:

"Let us be clear about the nature of Starbucks’ vicious anti-union efforts. The National Labor Relations Board, NLRB, has filed over 80 complaints against Starbucks for violating federal labor law. There have been over 500 unfair labor practice charges lodged against the company."
"And judges have found that Starbucks broke the law 130 times across six states since workers began organizing in the fall of 2021. These violations include the illegal firing of more than a dozen Starbucks workers for “the crime” of exercising their right to form a union and to collectively bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions."

And he noted that Starbucks "has refused to sign a single first contract with the union" since the first Starbucks union was certified over a year ago:

Since the first Starbucks union was certified more than 450 days ago in Buffalo, workers at more than 360 stores across 40 states have held union elections."
"Eighty-three percent of these elections have resulted in a union victory, and today nearly 300 Starbucks coffee shops, employing more than 7,000 workers, have a union — despite Starbucks’ aggressive anti-union efforts."
"Not a single one."

The National Labor Relations Board's general counsel has made numerous claims against Starbucks, accusing the company of violating labor laws over the past year and a half. These complaints include allegations of illegal employee firings, withholding of wages and benefits, store closures, and offering incentives to discourage workers from organizing.

Schultz was specifically implicated in charges of unfair labor practices, with accusations that he promised to improve pay and benefits if employees chose not to unionize.

Schultz was questioned regarding whether he had threatened or coerced workers to discourage them from unionizing. His response was cautious, stating that he had engaged in conversations that could have been misinterpreted.

At one point, Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Bob Casey claimed that Starbucks had spent significant funds on an anti-union law firm, to which Schultz objected, saying that he and Starbucks were not "union busters," resulting in laughter from some in the audience.

Many have criticized Schultz and expressed their support for Starbucks workers.

Baristas and their supporters waited for over an hour outside the hearing room, eager to see Schultz answer questions about how Starbucks had combated a union effort that had organized nearly 300 of the company's 9,000 corporate-owned stores since 2021.

Schultz maintained that Starbucks did not require a union, saying Starbucks doesn't "need" one. However, during the hearing, two witnesses, a current and a former Starbucks employee, disputed Schultz's claim that Starbucks had run a fair campaign.