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Starbucks CEO agrees to testify before US Senate panel



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz delivers remarks at the Starbucks 2016 Investor Day in Manhattan, New York, U.S., December 7, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Starbucks Corp interim Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz has agreed to testify this month before a U.S. Senate committee, the company and panel chairman Senator Bernie Sanders said on Tuesday.

Schultz will testify on March 29 before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee after he had earlier declined an invitation from 11 senators to testify before the panel on March 9. Schultz is stepping down from his post this month.

Democrats have criticized Starbucks (NASDAQ:), 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.

“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, referring to Schultz.

Sanders had called on Schultz to testify at a hearing on the company’s compliance with labor law. He had said earlier that a vote was going to go ahead on March 8 on whether to issue a subpoena for Schultz to appear.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the committee to foster productive dialogue,” Starbucks said on Tuesday.

Starbucks had previously noted Schultz was stepping down as CEO this month and said he was not the right witness.

It had said that its Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer AJ Jones was best positioned to address the workforce matters raised by committee members. The company had also offered to send May Jensen, vice president for partner and labor relations, and Zabrina Jenkins, acting executive vice president and general counsel.

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