Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has been grilled by Senator Bernie Sanders over the chain’s battle against unionized workers.

In a hearing on Wednesday, March 29, Sanders said that the firm has engaged in the “most aggressive and illegal union-busting campaign in the modern history of our country.” 

The coffee giant was also accused of blocking collective bargaining agreements, hoping workers quit their jobs voluntarily.

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The hearing took place a week after Schultz handed over the reins of the coffee giant to Laxman Narasimhan.

For over a year, Sanders, a pro-union independent representing Vermont, has been pressurizing Starbucks to recognize the union and negotiate contracts with unionized outlets.

The National Labor Relations Board data suggests almost 300 Starbucks stores have voted to unionize under Starbucks Workers United.

Starbucks was then hit with more than 500 complaints of union busting.

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Judges have ruled that the coffee chain has violated federal labor law 130 times. 

Starbucks has failed to reach an agreement with any of the unionized outlets.

An NLRB lawyer reportedly said the company’s reluctance to bargain over Zoom was unlawful.

Schultz defended Starbucks’ negotiation approach, maintaining that a direct relationship with staff is best for the company. 

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He also denied the allegations over federal labor law breaches and claimed his focus as interim CEO was 99 percent on operations, not fighting the union.

His third turn as CEO lasted two weeks short of a year, but he aggressively worked to control the organizing wave that started under his predecessor, Kevin Johnson. 

Schultz offered higher pay, better benefits, card tipping for non-union stores, and a plan to modernize, like automating monotonous tasks for baristas.

Source: CNBC

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