Billionaire former Starbucks CEO says it's unfair to call him a billionaire
Starbucks founder and former CEO Howard Schultz was called to testify before a Senate committee about the company’s efforts to undermine unionization efforts.
During testimony on Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on the topic of union organizing at Starbucks restaurants, the company’s former CEO Howard Schultz, a billionaire, complained that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) had described him as a “billionaire.”
Schultz said: “This moniker ‘billionaire,’ let’s just get at that, OK? … Yes, I have billions of dollars, I earned it, no one gave it to me, and I’ve shared it constantly with the people of Starbucks. … It’s your moniker, constantly. It’s unfair.”
According to Forbes magazine, Schultz has a reported net worth of $3.7 billion and is ranked as the 749th wealthiest person in the world.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz complains about Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “unfair” labeling of him as a billionaire:
“I came from nothing … Yes, I have billions of dollars — I earned it. No one gave it to me. And I’ve shared it constantly with the people of Starbucks.” pic.twitter.com/Cl95jg0GVZ
— The Recount (@therecount) March 29, 2023
Sanders, who chairs the committee, noted in his opening remarks that the National Labor Relations Board has filed more than 80 complaints against Starbucks for alleged violations of federal labor law in response to ongoing unionization efforts.
“What is outrageous to me is not only Starbucks’ anti-union activities and their willingness to break the law, it is their calculated and intentional efforts to stall, stall and stall,” Sanders said, referring to the company’s failure to sign a union contract after its workers voted in favor of it.
“They understand that if workers do not see success in getting a contract and improved wages they may get discouraged,” he said. “So what Starbucks is doing is not only trying to break unions, but even worse. They are trying to break the spirit of workers who are struggling to improve their lives. And that is unforgivable.”
Schultz is the founder of Starbucks and currently sits on the company’s board of directors. He served as the company’s CEO in the 1980s and 2000s and returned to the company in 2022, serving as interim CEO until March of this year.
Starbucks initially denied Sanders’ request for Schultz to testify and only relented after the committee had scheduled a vote to subpoena him.
Since 2021, a grassroots campaign to organize Starbucks employees has been growing nationwide; 282 of the company’s approximately 9,300 locations have unionized.
Starbucks Workers United, the union organizing the stores, has said it hopes to negotiate contracts with the company to address improving working conditions, negotiating salaries and benefits, implementing protection from unfair firings, and broadening the role of workers in creating policies at Starbucks.
During Schultz’s time as interim CEO, the company was accused of working to undermine the campaign. In a February interview with CNN, Schultz said, “I don’t think a union has a place at Starbucks.”
In August, the company announced that two locations, in Kansas City, Missouri, and Seattle, Washington, would be shuttered as their unionization efforts progressed. At the time of the announcement, the union noted that 19 locations involved in union efforts had been shuttered or were in the process of being closed down.
National Labor Relations Board judge Michael Rosas released an order on March 1 determining that Starbucks had engaged in “egregious and widespread misconduct” in its treatment of employees involved in organizing a union in Buffalo, New York.
As the organizing campaign has continued, it has received support from Democratic leaders, including President Joe Biden.
Campaigners involved in unionization efforts at Starbucks, Amazon, and other companies were invited to the White House to meet with Biden in May 2022.
Biden tweeted after the event: “Today, I met with grassroots worker organizers to thank them for their leadership in organizing unions. From the Amazon Labor Union to IATSE at Titmouse Productions, these folks are inspiring a movement of workers across the country to fight for the pay and benefits they deserve.”
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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