Former Starbucks Corporation SBUX CEO Howard Schultz took offense at one particular aspect of his Senate hearing over alleged labor violations on Wednesday — that panel chair Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and other members repeatedly called him “billionaire.”
What Happened: “This moniker ‘billionaire,’ let’s get at that okay?” Schultz said during his hearing. “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 American dream. Yes, I have billions of dollars, I earned it. No one gave it to me.”
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Schultz said he took offense to the company or him being described as a union buster. “My personal view is that we should follow the law that Congress has set up,” he said, while admitting that benefits were withheld from Starbucks employees in unionized stores as “we could not provide those benefits under the law.”
Why It Matters: According to the Sanders-chaired HELP Committee, the National Labor Relations Board has issued over 80 complaints against Starbucks for violating federal labor law.
On the NLRB website, there are more than 1,200 cases listed involving Starbucks.
Schultz said baristas in Starbucks stores earn on average $17.50 per hour. “Respectfully, that’s more than the minimum wage of every senator that’s represented a state on this committee,” he added.
His net worth currently is $3.7 billion, according to Forbes.
Schultz is credited with transforming Starbucks from a small-time coffee joint into the mammoth chain that it is today, ever since taking over the reins in the 1980s. He even explored a 2020 presidential bid, but backed out eventually.
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Photo via Gage Skidmore on Flickr