Bernie Sanders Requires Vote on Howard Schultz’s Starbucks Subpoena

Starbucks chairman and former CEO Howard Schultz

Jason Redmond | AFP | Getty Images

Senator Bernie Sanders carries out his threat with a subpoena Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on what Sanders has described as anti-union activity at the company’s coffee shops.

Sanders said Wednesday that the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, or HELP, will vote March 8 on whether to issue a subpoena for Schultz, who previously declined to appear before the committee.

Sanders said in a statement that Schultz declined meetings and requests for documents, and declined to answer questions from him and his fellow senators.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Schultz gave us no choice but to subpoena him,” Sanders said in a statement.

Starbucks said it will continue to talk to Sanders’ employees about the heater.

“This is a disappointing development, but we will continue our dialogue with Chairman Sanders’ staff and are optimistic that we will reach an appropriate resolution,” Starbucks spokesman Andrew Trull said in a statement to CNBC.

The HELP committee originally scheduled a hearing for March 9 about the coffee chain’s handling of its baristas’ union push, and invited Schultz to testify.

However, Starbucks general counsel Zabrina Jenkins wrote in a letter seen by CNBC that it made more sense for Schultz to step down as interim CEO in March if another senior executive with ongoing responsibilities testified. The company instead suggested Chief Public Affairs Officer AJ Jones II as the best person to speak before the committee.

In response, Senate committee chair Sanders indicated that lawmakers could subpoena Schultz to appear.

According to FactSet, Schultz owns 1.9% of Starbucks stock. The company’s market value is approximately $124.6 billion.

Nearly 290 company-owned Starbucks coffee shops in the US voted to unionize as of mid-February, according to a tally by the National Labor Relations Board. Schultz has aggressively fought back against the union, and workers have accused the company of violating federal labor laws, prompting scrutiny from benevolent lawmakers like Sanders.

The union-busting allegations have tarnished Starbucks’ reputation as a progressive employer, though they don’t appear to have hurt the company’s US sales. The chain reported same-store sales growth of 10% for the most recent quarter in the US, boosted by strong demand during the holiday season.

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