Laxman Narasimhan officially took over as the CEO of Starbucks on Monday, two weeks ahead of schedule. The move comes as former chief executive Howard Schultz prepares to appear before a Senate committee that’s been looking into the coffee giant’s response to the widespread unionization campaign.
Starbucks said in September that Narasimhan would replace Schultz on April 1.
Narasimhan joined the company as incoming CEO in October 2022 and has been working closely with Schultz, who had been serving as interim CEO since Kevin Johnson retired in April 2022.
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“Our company is like a river – the stewards of it will change over time, but it’s always growing and changing, carving a new path and moving forward to something better,” Schultz said in a letter to Starbucks senior leadership. “As I step away, I leave you all as the stewards, in service of all of our partners.”
Schultz is slated to testify on March 29 before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
The company has been facing a nationwide unionization push even before Schultz took the reins temporarily last year. More than 280 Starbucks stores have voted to unionize since 2021 with hopes of attaining, in part, better pay, better schedules and safer stores.
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Schultz previously refused to testify saying that the company’s chief public affairs officer would be better equipped to discuss the company’s labor record. But the committee disagreed and had scheduled a vote to subpoena Schultz in an effort to force him to testify.
“Let’s be clear. In America, workers have the constitutional right to organize unions and engage in collective bargaining to improve their wages and working conditions,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent and chairman of the committee said. “Unfortunately Starbucks, under Mr. Schultz’s leadership, has done everything possible to prevent that from happening.”
Sanders added that “Starbucks has refused to negotiate in good faith to sign a single first contract with their employees.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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