Longtime Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is currently under investigation for the coffee chain’s labor practices and he has some choice words for lawmakers on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee. He doesn’t like being referred to as a billionaire. Like seriously...stop calling him that. He just has billions of dollars and grew up poor.
Schultz is currently the subject of a Senator Bernie Sanders-led Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee hearing into the company’s anti-union tactics, which have seemingly become synonymous with the Starbucks brand as of late. As NPR describes, once a prominent Democrat, Schultz has recently been at the center of union-busting efforts as baristas across the country clamor for better conditions and increased pay. As Sanders and his constituents grilled Schultz over these labor violations, Schultz—who stepped down as Starbucks CEO last week—got really peeved that he was being labelled a billionaire.
“This moniker ‘billionaire,’ let’s get at that,” Schultz said during the hearing, as heard in a clip uploaded to Twitter. “I grew up in federally subsidized housing. My parents never owned a home. I came from nothing. I thought my entire life was based on the achievement of the America dream. Yes, I have billions of dollars, but I earned it. No one gave it to me.”
Ah, the old “I can’t be called rich because I grew up poor” defense. Classic. Schultz previously denied an invitation from Sanders last February to testify about the company’s labor practices, but quickly changed his tune and appeared on Capitol Hill shortly after he was threatened with a subpoena. Starbucks baristas have triggered a wave of union movements in stores across the country beginning over a year and a half ago, according to The Progressive, but Starbucks has been allegedly busting union efforts since the 1980's. Recently, Starbucks has been retaliating against the union push with store closures, cutting hours, and firing prominent union-forward employees.
But in Schultz’s testimony, he denied being a union-buster and according to NPR, took offense at being characterized as one.
“However, I have the right, and the company has the right, to have a preference. And our preference is to maintain the direct relationship we’ve had with our employees, who we call partners,” Schultz said.
While Starbucks has been a pioneer in the coffee space, there are plenty of facets where it has lagged behind. In a poor attempt at riding the Web3 wave, Starbucks opened up a confusing NFT program called Starbucks Odyssey, where instead of earning stars on the coffee shop’s app, customers can earn unique digital collectibles in the Starbucks metaverse. How fun! Likewise, Starbucks is planning on phasing out disposable cups by the end of 2023, after originally planning on phasing them out in 2015.