Starbucks’ chief executive, Howard Schultz, is ending his third stint as head of the coffee chain early as he faces growing scrutiny over the company’s labor practices.
The company announced on Monday that Schultz had stepped down as interim chief executive, nearly two weeks earlier than expected. The new CEO, Lax Narasimhan, was slated to take over on 1 April.
As I turn Starbucks over to you now, know that you have my utmost confidence, trust and love,” Schultz said in a public letter on Monday. “You are all the future of Starbucks. The world needs Starbucks – and Starbucks needs all of you.”
Schultz started his third term as CEO last April upon the retirement of the then CEO, Kevin Johnson. Schultz served as CEO of the company twice before, from 1986 to 2000 and 2008 to 2017, overseeing huge growth for the company. Schultz said last year that this would be his last time as CEO.
Over the last few years, Schultz has developed a reputation for being a resolute force against growing unionization efforts seen at locations across the company. Schultz has argued that Starbucks can manage its relationship with its employees without a union. The company has been accused of multiple anti-union tactics over the last year, including wrongfully firing employees and intimidation.
Earlier this month, Schultz agreed to appear in front of a key Senate labor committee on 29 March after the committee nearly voted to subpoena him for testimony.
“For nearly a year, I and many of my colleagues in the Senate have repeatedly asked Mr Schultz to respect the constitutional rights of workers at Starbucks to form a union and to stop violating federal labor laws,” Senator Bernie Sanders, who chairs the committee, said in a statement at the time.
Investors will also be voting on a shareholder proposal at the company’s next shareholder meeting on 23 March that could see the company undergoing an independent review of its labor practices.
Narasimhan was named as the new CEO of the company in September. He is the former CEO of Reckitt Benckiser Group and was an executive at PepsiCo. Upon the announcement of Narasimhan’s hiring, Schultz said that he was “never coming back again, because we found the right person”. Narasimhan has not spoken publicly on his stance on unionization within the company, though experts have said that it is unlikely the company will be changing course.
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