Starbucks CEO won’t deny that conversations with pro-union staff could be seen as threatening

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The CEO of Starbucks clearly came to Capitol Hill on Wednesday prepared for a fight with Senator Bernie Sanders over the issue of his company’s alleged union-busting, but still squirmed when confronted on the issue of whether he had threatened or coerced his own workers.

Howard Schultz, the outgoing interim CEO who returned to the company he founded last year, battled Mr Sanders over allegations that Starbucks had forced store staff to attend captive audience meetings and taken punitive action against stores and individual employees who decide to support the chain’s budgeoning unionisation drive.

But he was clearly not comfortable when asked directly by Mr Sanders, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, whether his own conversations with his workers could be seen as manipulative or threatening.

“Mr Schultz, have you ever threatened coerced, or intimidated a worker for supporting a union?” asked the senator.

The outgoing CEO could not directly deny this.

“I’ve had conversations that could have been interpreted in a different way than I intended,” Mr Schultz admitted. “That’s up to the person who received the information that I spoke to them about.”

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