July 24, 2024

Republicans have long attacked Starbucks’ liberal stance on certain social issues, but they used much of their time on Wednesday to defend the coffee chain from Democratic attacks. 

The fiery Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing showcases just how partisan the issue of labor unions has become in Congress, with GOP members acknowledging their support for Schultz, a former Democratic presidential candidate. 

“I recognize at the outset there’s some irony to a non-coffee-drinking Mormon conservative defending a Democrat candidate for president in perhaps one of the most liberal companies in America,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the committee’s chairman, grilled Schultz over his role in the firing of pro-union baristas and the closing of stores that voted to unionize.  

More than 280 Starbucks stores have voted to unionize, but the company’s efforts to oppose unionization have sparked more than 80 complaints from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Judges have ruled that Starbucks violated labor laws at least 130 times.

But Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the committee’s ranking member, called the hearing a “smear campaign against a company and an individual.”

He attacked the credibility of the NLRB, which is being led by a former union official, suggesting that Congress should investigate whether the board is unlawfully helping organizers win unions elections. 

An August 2022 Gallup poll found that 71 percent of Americans support labor unions, the highest figure since 1965.

“It’s kind of disappointing and sad and wild to me at how partisan this debate has become,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said during the hearing. “Previous Republican candidates, they really fought hard to win the union vote, to speak at union conventions.”

While most Republicans on the committee downplayed the charges levied against Starbucks, a few GOP senators pointed to the union-busting allegations.

“You do have 645 unfair labor cases brought against you. Based on the size of the crowd, there may be some smoke and fire together there,” Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) told Schultz.

Read more in a full report at TheHill.com.