By Kanishka Singh and David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Starbucks Corp interim Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz has agreed to testify this month before a U.S. Senate committee after earlier resisting requests to appear and answer questions about the company’s compliance with labor law.
Schultz will testify on March 29 before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, the company and panel chairman Senator Bernie Sanders said on Tuesday. Schultz, who is stepping down from his post this month, had earlier declined an invitation from 11 senators to testify before the panel on March 9.
Committee Democrats had scheduled a vote for Wednesday on issuing a subpoena to compel Schultz’s appearance. The company previously rebuffed requests by Sanders for him to appear, instead offering for other executives to testify.
Starbucks shares fell 1.5% on Tuesday.
“I look forward to hearing from him as to when he intends to end his illegal anti-union activities and begin signing fair first contracts with the unions,” Sanders wrote on Twitter.
The committee is set to hold a hearing on Wednesday with union leaders including AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler on the rights of Americans to join unions and tactics used by companies to deter workers from organizing.
Democrats have criticized Starbucks, saying it has not bargained in good faith with workers joining unions. Starbucks has said it respects the right of its employees to organize and to engage in lawful union activities and denies wrongdoing.
Employees at more than 280 out of its roughly 9,000 company-operated U.S. locations have voted to join a labor union since 2021. The union is seeking better pay and benefits, improved health and safety conditions and protections against unfair dismissal and discipline.
Starbucks said in a statement the upcoming testimony “will seek to foster a better understanding of our partner-first culture and priorities.”
Sanders said that the U.S. National Labor Relations Board has issued more than 80 complaints against Starbucks for violating federal labor law. Sanders also noted that an administrative law judge in New York has ruled that the company engaged in “egregious and widespread misconduct” in a union organizing campaign that began in 2019.
“Despite the fact that over 280 Starbucks coffee shops have successfully voted to form a union over the past year, Starbucks has refused to negotiate in good faith to sign a single first contract with their employees,” Sanders said in a statement.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham and Tim Ahmann)