WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered remarks during today’s hearing on labor relations at Starbucks. Specifically, he expressed concern about the prejudicial nature of the hearing as the accusations against Starbucks are still being litigated. Additionally, he highlighted the serious accusations of National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) employees weaponizing the non-partial agency against American employers on behalf of labor unions. The NLRB claims against Starbucks have been cited as justification for today’s hearing.
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Thank you, Chair Sanders.
Workers have the right to organize. Some may disagree as to whether the protections for workers to choose to organize should also apply to workers who choose not to organize. That is my position. Examining this nuance, however, does not seem to be at issue here
The title of today’s hearing – “No Company is Above the Law: The Need to End Illegal Union Busting at Starbucks” – assumes that Mr. Schultz and his former employer are guilty before the allegations are fully investigated. The title suggests that this hearing is not a good-faith effort to get facts. It is a smear campaign against an individual and a company based upon allegations that everyone knows are still under litigation.
I am not here to defend Starbucks. I have my own questions about the alleged misconduct and the law should be followed and upheld. I agree with the Chair that no one should be above the law. But let’s not kid ourselves. These hearings are anything but a fair and impartial proceeding.
It is not surprising that Mr. Schultz was reluctant to testify. When the majority is using the title of the hearing to slander the witness that we are asking to testify, it sends a signal.
The majority points to claims of Starbucks’ misconduct filed at the National Labor Relations Board to justify today’s hearing. These allegations should be addressed and investigated, but it would be malpractice of this Committee to not also acknowledge that the NLRB is currently facing its own credibility crisis. The NLRB confirmed there are four separate allegations of NLRB employee interference, three in which the employer was Starbucks, pending before the Board. It begs the question, are NLRB employees weaponizing the agency against American employers to benefit politically connected labor unions?
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was passed to provide an un-biased framework to review disputes between employees and employers. The NLRB carries out the law and is required to protect the rights of all parties in a labor dispute, not just that of unions. But that is not what we are seeing in practice.
An NLRB hearing officer recently substantiated reports of voting irregularities in a unionization election at a Starbucks in Kansas that could potentially elevate to the level of misconduct by NLRB employees. This includes NLRB staff providing duplicate ballots, supplying union organizers with confidential voter information, and providing voter accommodations to employees selected by the union without offering them to all employees.
Regardless of outcome, these actions are in direct violation of federal law and NLRB written guidelines.
Today, we hear from former Congressman Bradley Byrne, who is representing the brave whistleblower who brought this misconduct and weaponization to light. He will be able to provide more insight into how the NLRB is operating in violation of its own practices and procedures in a manner that benefits labor unions.
Let’s be clear, workers have the legal right to unionize. Companies cannot break the law to prevent unionization. Similarly, unions should not be allowed to intimidate workers into unionizing through coercion or by banning secret ballot elections, which the Supreme Court has stated are “indeed the preferred” method to gauge worker support of unionization. This is a conversation that our Committee can and will continue to have. But, the bottom line is that a federal agency has no right to break the law to advance a political agenda. That should be something our Committee investigates on a bipartisan basis.
If the Committee is going to properly investigate concerns over labor relations at Starbucks, we have to also investigate the alleged misconduct of the agency that has sought to influence the union representation process.
At last week’s hearing, I said that we should thoughtfully examine legitimate policy issues, not hold show trials for public shaming. Today looks like more of what we saw last week.
There are important bipartisan things the Committee needs to accomplish. We need to work together on real solutions to the issues facing American families like the high cost of prescription drugs, getting Americans back to work, and driving down inflation that is choking economic growth. Instead, we are putting CEOs on the dock; instead of a cage in which a prisoner was formerly kept, it is a desk by a committee where a judgment has already been made.
Thank you, and I look forward to today’s witness testimony.