(NewsHill.org)- Only days before he was set to appear before a Senate committee, Starbucks interim CEO Howard Schultz stepped down from his position leading the coffee giant.
Schultz was only supposed to remain as CEO through the beginning of April, but he has now departed immediately. Laxman Narasimhan will immediately take his place. He was selected by the company’s board of directors as Schultz’s replacement last September.
This marks the third sting that Schultz served in as the leader of Starbucks. In addition to his time as interim CEO from 2022 through this year, he also served as full-blown CEO from 1986 through 2000, and then again from 2008 through 2017.
Schultz is scheduled to testify at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions next week. That committee is investigating how Starbucks has treated some of its workers who are looking to unionize.
The chair of that committee, Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, negotiated back and forth with Starbucks to secure the testimony of Schultz at the hearing.
Sanders has been wanting to get Schultz’s input on how Starbucks responded to the many unionization efforts ongoing at hundreds of locations for the company over the last few years. Union organizers have very vocally criticized Starbucks for how the company responded to the fact that their workers wanted to organize into a union.
The Vermont senator and many other lawmakers in Washington have denounced Starbucks’ actions in this regard.
Earlier in April, a judge who works for the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the coffee company committed violations that he called “egregious and widespread.” The violations in question were federal laws that protect workers’ rights to create a union if they want to do so.
Since 2021, in excess of 280 locations of Starbucks have voted in favor of unionizing their workers. Those who have been a prominent part of those unionization efforts have met the ire of Starbucks, which has fired 200 of those workers and clashed with the others in public.
While Schultz is no longer serving as the head of Starbucks, he still will apparently testify before the Senate committee, as the coffee company recently confirmed to media outlet The Hill. Right now, that testimony is scheduled for March 29.
Initially, Starbucks rebuked the requests that Sanders made for Schultz to appear before the Senate committee and speak to the lawmakers on the panel. In response, members of the committee said they were going to debate whether they should issue a subpoena to Schultz that would have forced him to testify before them.
When that news came out, Schultz agreed to testify voluntarily in front of the committee.
It’s not certain whether Schultz’s decision to testify voluntarily was to avoid the appearance of any wrongdoing. It’s also unclear whether he stepped down as interim CEO of Starbucks in advance of those hearings so he would have a case to make that he is separate from the coffee company and doesn’t represent them anymore.