Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz declines to appear at U.S. Senate hearing

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Howard Schultz speaks onstage at The New York Times DealBook DC policy forum on June 9, 2022 in Washington.
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Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz declined an invitation from 11 senators to testify on March 9 on the coffee company's compliance with federal labor law, according to a letter seen by Reuters late on Tuesday.

Last week, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who chairs a committee on labor issues, and 10 other members of the committee asked Schultz to answer by Feb. 14 whether he would take part.

Schultz, who rejoined Starbucks as interim CEO in April 2022, will "fully transition" out of the role next month, Starbucks acting executive vice president and general counsel, Zabrina Jenkins, said in the letter.

"Given the timing of the transition, his relinquishment of any operating role in the company going forward and what we understand to be the subject of the hearing, we believe another senior leader with ongoing responsibilities is best suited to address these matters," Jenkins wrote.

Sanders, who last month took over as chair of the Health, Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said Wednesday he intends "to hold Mr. Schultz and Starbucks accountable for their unacceptable behavior and look forward to seeing him before our committee."

Sanders said "if Mr. Schultz believes that a multibillion-dollar corporation like Starbucks can break federal labor law with impunity he is mistaken."

Starbucks said executive vice president and chief public affairs officer AJ Jones II is available and is the best person to address workforce policy matters. Jones is a former senior aide to Democratic Representative James Clyburn.

Starbucks Workers United has won elections at more than 260 U.S. stores and has lost about 70 elections since late 2021. The union is seeking increased pay and benefits, improved health and safety conditions and protections against unfair firings and discipline.

Starbucks has said it respects the right of its employees to organize and to engage in lawful union activities. The company said it has held more than 80 single-store contract bargaining sessions since October.

Union asks company to extend raises and benefits to Starbucks' unionized stores
Union asks company to extend raises and benefits to Starbucks' unionized stores