Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz spars with Democrats in Senate hearings

Howard Schultz was a star witness, but the trial revealed as much about the party in power as it did about the longtime Starbucks chief executive.

Mr. During an appearance Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Schultz said, “”No organization is above the law: The need to end illegal union busting at Starbucks,” a Democrat who has changed a lot from his previous few trips to Washington.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton asked Mr. Schultz was invited to the White House. Two years later, President Mr. Schultz praised Starbucks while introducing it In Conference on Corporate Responsibility. At the time, Bernie Sanders was a backbencher in the House of Representatives.

On Wednesday, the now chairman of the Senate committee, Mr. Saunders, Mr. He regarded Schultz with disdain.

Before a question, Mr. Saunders, Mr. felt the need to remind Schultz. Federal law Prohibits a witness from “knowingly and intentionally” making a false statement relevant to an investigation. The chairman asked him whether he participated in decisions to fire or discipline workers engaged in union campaigning. (Mr. Schultz said he was not.)

Mr. Sanders, an administrative law judge, noted that Starbucks found “gross and widespread misconduct” in response to its campaign, in which nearly 300 of the roughly 9,300 corporate-owned stores in the United States voted to unionize. He accused Mr. Schultz said.

Having recently completed his third tour as the company’s chief executive, Mr. Schultz, who has been a board member and major shareholder, has appeared as mysterious as anyone with his turnaround of personal fortunes in the capital. He was perplexed by what he described as a “flamboyant campaign” at the hearing and told Senator Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania, “I’m outraged that you’ve characterized me or Starbucks as a union-buster.”

When another Democrat, Senator Patty Murray of Starbucks’ home state of Washington, said she had heard from constituents about “massive anti-union efforts,” Mr. Schultz recalled that they had known each other for years and that he had “many.” The Times actually talked about Starbucks as a model employer.”

Mr. Starbucks did not bargain in good faith. He responded to Sanders’ allegations by noting that the company has met with the union 85 times. (The union points out that most of these sessions ended within 15 minutes; Starbucks says that’s because union members sought to participate remotely.) And he denied that Starbucks broke the law; It has appealed against the judgments.

Aside from allegations of labor law violations, the question at the heart of the investigation is: Can chief executives be trusted to treat their workers fairly?

Mr. Schultz’s answer, at least in his case, was an emphatic yes. He highlighted the company’s wide range of benefits — not just health care for part-time employees, but stock grants, paid sick leave, paid parental leave and free tuition at Arizona State University. He said the average wage for workers at Starbucks is $17.50 an hour, and total compensation, including benefits, is closer to $27 an hour.

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“My vision for the Starbucks coffee company has always been steeped in humanity, respect and shared success,” he said at the start of the hearing.

Republicans on the panel readily agreed. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky called Starbucks “an extraordinary story of a company that started with nothing and made tens of thousands of people pay big bucks.”

Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, a former chief executive, said that “you’re being grilled by people who don’t have a chance to create a single job and it’s partly rich.” He suggested that while a union is necessary in companies that are “not good employers,” that’s not the case at Starbucks.

The Democrats’ response came in two levels higher. First, the company’s exclusion of unionized stores from benefits that Starbucks has introduced since the start of its union campaign, such as faster access to sick leave and credit card tipping options for customers, shows its commitment to such benefits is low.

Published by the National Labor Relations Board complaints Denial of concessions to union stores is an attempt to discourage workers from organizing. Mr. Schultz said the company could not offer new concessions at union stores because the law required them to bargain first; Legal experts have cast doubt on that interpretation.

More broadly, Democrats argued that unions functioned to redress the fundamental power imbalance between labor and management. A company may treat workers leniently under one CEO and then harshly under another. Senator Edward J. of Massachusetts argued that only a union could ensure the continuation of favorable treatment. Margie said.

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Yet in illustrating how far labor politics in Washington has changed in recent decades, there is no better bellwether than Senator John Hickenlooper of Colorado, a former business owner and self-described “radical moderate.”

Mr. Mr. Hickenlooper was treated with more respect and respect than his Democratic colleagues, “for building one of the most successful brands in American history.” Praising Schultz, he declared, “You know more about economics than I do.” But in his question he fully aligned himself with his party, pointing out that the rise in inequality in recent decades has coincided with the weakening of unions.

“I certainly appreciate the desire to connect directly with all of your employees,” he said to Mr. Schultz said. “But in many ways the right to organize, and the opportunity for people to be part of a union, is an important building block for the middle class and I think has given stability to this country.”

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