Schultz began serving his third term as Starbucks chief last April and was due to finish on April 1, 2023. He had served as the company’s CEO twice before, from 1986 to 2000 and again from 2008 until 2017. He briefly flirted with the idea of running for president before returning to Starbucks for what he said would be his last time.
Schultz spent the majority of his most recent tenure trying to thwart Starbucks’s nascent union organizing drive and attempting to pivot to non-fungible tokens several months after everybody else. His announcement also comes a little more than a week before he was due to appear in front of a key Senate labor committee.
“As I turn Starbucks over to you now, know that you have my utmost confidence, trust and love. You are all the future of Starbucks,” Schultz said in an open letter to the company’s other leaders.
“The world needs Starbucks—and Starbucks needs all of you,” he added, which is an objectively weird thing to say about a coffee company.
Schultz had come under intense scrutiny during his third stint as CEO for alleged union-busting tactics. At least 420 Starbucks locations nationwide have launched unionization efforts, 285 of which were successful. Another 40 elections are ongoing.
Over the past year, Starbucks has shuttered multiple locations, some of which were either unionized or reportedly forming a union. The company fired more than 100 union leaders, some of whom were reinstated only after a federal judge ordered Starbucks to do so. And when Starbucks representatives finally met with union members in October, after months of delays, they walked out after just a few minutes because they disliked that some union members had called in over Zoom.
Senator Bernie Sanders called earlier this month for the chamber’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which he chairs, to vote to subpoena Schultz over the union-busting allegations.
“The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has filed over 75 complaints against Starbucks for violating federal labor law and there have been over 500 unfair labor practice charges lodged against his company,” Sanders said in a statement at the time.
“A multi-billion dollar corporation like Starbucks cannot continue to break federal labor law with impunity.”
Schultz agreed to testify less than a week later, before the vote was held. He will still have to appear in front of the committee, even though he is no longer Starbucks’s CEO.