WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Starbucks was part of a heated showdown in Washington D.C. during a congressional a hearing focused on the company’s anti-union efforts.
On Wednesday, lawmakers on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing called “No Company is Above the Law: The Need to End Illegal Union Busting at Starbucks.” Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders slammed the coffee company, accusing it of “aggressive” and “vicious” union busting.
“Starbucks has broken the law and has prevented workers from joining unions to collectively bargain for decent wages and benefits,” Sanders said.
Federal administrative law judges have found that Starbucks violated labor laws in several cases. However, the company is appealing the decisions and former CEO Howard Schultz adamantly denied any wrongdoing.
“These are allegations and Starbucks hasn’t broken the law,” Schultz said.
He admitted the company prefers to negotiate directly with employees, rather than unions. But he also defended how Starbucks treats its workers, by offering high wages, good benefits, and stock opportunities.
“It’s unprecedented and that’s why Starbucks doesn’t need a union,” Schultz said.
Republicans poured praise on Starbucks during the hearing, calling it an American success story.
Sen. Rand Paul said the hearing was just a witch hunt.
“The hearing today is convened to attack a private company for its success, when its success has benefited both customers and its employees alike,” Paul said.
Sen. Markwayne Mullin said lawmakers shouldn’t get in the way of private businesses making profits.
“The government’s role is to create an environment for entrepreneurs, for go getters, for world changers, to be successful in life,” Mullin said.
But Sanders insisted the hearing was about a larger issue.
“Whether we have a system of justice that applies to all or whether billionaires and large corporations can break the law with impunity,” Sanders said.