(The Hill) – Howard Schultz, the former interim CEO of Starbucks, is stepping down from his position at the head of the company earlier than expected, just days before he is expected to testify in front of a Senate committee examining the coffee giant’s treatment of union organizing efforts.
Starbucks announced Monday that Laxman Narasimhan, who was selected as the incoming chief of the company in September, was taking over for Schultz immediately. He was originally slated to take over at the beginning of next month.
Schultz served three different stints at the top of the company. He was 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 comes about a week before he is set to testify before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions after weeks of back-and-forth between the company and committee Chair Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to secure Schultz’s testimony.
Sanders is seeking input from Schultz on Starbucks’s response to the wave of unionization efforts that have swept hundreds of its locations in recent years. The company has long been criticized by union organizers for its handling of efforts by workers to organize, which has brought 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 halt unions. More than 280 Starbucks locations have voted to unionize in the U.S. since 2021, but the company has very publicly clashed with organizers in that time, firing 200 of them.
Schultz leaving the company early has not changed the plans for him to testify in front of senators on March 29, the company confirmed to The Hill.
Schultz agreed to testify after the company rebuked Sanders’s request for the interim CEO to speak to lawmakers. The committee was set to vote on a subpoena for his testimony before Schultz agreed to voluntarily testify.