Howard Schultz, the former interim CEO of Starbucks, is stepping down at the helm of the company earlier than expected, just days before he is expected to testify before a Senate committee examining the coffee giant’s handling of its union organizing efforts.
Starbucks announced Monday that Laxman Narasimhan, who was named the company’s new president in September, will take over Schultz’s position immediately. He was originally scheduled to take over at the beginning of next month.
Schultz has served three different terms at the helm of the company. He served as CEO from 1986 to 2000 and again from 2008 to 2017. He served as interim CEO from 2022 to 2023.
Schultz’s early exit from the company about a week before he is set to testify before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions follows weeks of brainstorming between the company and committee chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to secure Schultz’s testimony.
Sanders is seeking input from Schultz on Starbucks’ response to the wave of unionization efforts that have swept through hundreds of its locations in recent years. The company has long been criticized by union organizers for its handling of workers’ efforts to organize, which has drawn scrutiny from Sanders and other lawmakers.
Earlier this month, a National Labor Relations Board judge ruled that Starbucks committed “egregious and widespread” violations of federal law in its campaign to stop unionization. More than 280 Starbucks locations have voted to unionize in the US since 2021, but the company has publicly clashed with regulators in that time, firing 200 of them.
The company maintained that Schultz’s early departure from the company did not change his plans to testify before senators on March 29.
Schultz agreed to testify after the company rebuked Sanders’ request for the interim CEO to speak to lawmakers. The committee was scheduled to vote on a subpoena before Schultz agreed to testify voluntarily.
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