WASHINGTON, March 2 (Reuters) – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday refused to back down on calls to have Starbucks Corp ( SBUX.O ) interim CEO Howard Schultz, who is stepping down this month, testify at a hearing on the company’s compliance with labor legislation.
Starbucks reiterated on Thursday that it has no plans to send Schultz to a US Senate committee hearing set for March 9.
In response, Sanders, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said he was “shocked and deeply concerned that Howard Schultz will continue to defy a request by a majority of the members of the Senate HELP Committee.”
He said a vote will begin March 8 on whether to issue a subpoena for Schultz to appear.
“Let’s be clear. Howard Schultz is the founder of Starbucks, he is the CEO of Starbucks, he is the spokesperson for Starbucks, and he will continue to serve on the board of Starbucks well into the future,” Sanders said in a letter Thursday to Starbucks .
“Mr. Schultz has made it clear that he is the driving force behind labor policy at Starbucks,” the Democratic senator said.
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Starbucks noted that Schultz is stepping down as CEO later this month and said he was not the right witness.
It maintained that its head of communications and public affairs AJ Jones was best placed to address workforce issues raised by members of the committee.
The company has also offered to send May Jensen, vice president of partner and labor relations, and Zabrina Jenkins, acting executive vice president and general counsel.
Democratic lawmakers accuse Starbucks of failing to engage in fair negotiations with workers who join unions. The coffee company has denied the allegations, saying it values workers’ right to participate in legitimate union-related endeavors.
The company said in its letter on Thursday that it “has an unparalleled history as a model employer.”
Employees at more than 280 of its roughly 9,000 company-operated U.S. locations have voted to join a union since 2021. The union is seeking better wages and benefits, improved health and safety conditions, and protections against unfair dismissal and discipline.
The Senate committee will also vote to authorize the panel to investigate labor law violations by large companies.
Reporting by Arshreet Singh and David Shepardson; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri and Sonali Paul
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