Shareholders for the coffee giant Starbucks approved an independent review of the company’s labor practices as it has come under federal scrutiny of its treatment of union organizing efforts.
The results of the vote by 52 percent of shareholders to approve the review came on the same day that the company’s recently-departed CEO Howard Schultz testified in a much-awaited hearing in front of the Senate on Wednesday.
New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, who filed the request for the independent review of the company’s labor practices, said in a statement that the results of the vote showed that investors want the company to be transparent about its treatment of union organizers.
“Investors who want to see a thriving, successful and flourishing Starbucks sent a strong message that the company must live up to its own policies and values,” Lander said in a statement after the vote. “The majority support from shareholders for our proposal reflects a growing demand for an honest accounting of the discrepancy between Starbucks’ purported values and management’s anti-union behavior.”
Starbucks said that it was “undertaking an independent, third-party human rights impact assessment, which will include a deeper-level review of the principles of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.”
Starbucks has been under intense scrutiny for its treatment of labor organizers. Earlier this month a National Labor Relations Board judge ruled that Starbucks committed “egregious and widespread” violations of federal law in its campaign to halt unions. More than 280 Starbucks locations have voted to unionize in the U.S. since 2021, but the company has very publicly clashed with organizers in that time, firing 200 of them.
Schultz clashed with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at the hearing on Wednesday, with Sanders blasting Starbucks, under Schultz’s leadership, for waging “the most aggressive and illegal union-busting campaign in the modern history of our country.”
Schultz, who has been at the head of the company three different times, denied that Starbucks has ever broken the law.
“My involvement and engagement in union activities, despite this event today, has been de minimis. I was not involved in any issue of closing stores,” Schultz said.