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Starbucks Holds Investor Meeting

Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) investors will vote Thursday on whether the coffee giant is respecting its workers’ rights and if its board is doing enough to plan for executive transitions.

The shareholder meeting is the first under new CEO Laxman Narasimhan, who took the reins from Howard Schultz on Monday, nearly two weeks earlier than expected. Narasimhan’s ascension comes at a time when Starbucks is facing scrutiny from all angles.

Next week, Sen. Bernie Sanders is slated to grill Schultz in front of a U.S. Senate panel about the company’s alleged union busting. Baristas from more than 100 cafes spent Wednesday on strike and picketed in front of Starbucks’ Seattle headquarters. Even animal rights group PETA said it plans to “pummel” the company during Thursday’s meeting over its premium pricing for milk substitutes.

Shareholder votes aren’t binding, so the board can reject proposals even if a majority of investors vote in favor. For example, in 2021, shareholders rejected Starbucks’ executive compensation plan, in a rare admonition of an S&P 500 company. But a public show of support for proposals can put pressure on the board and the company more broadly.

More than 190 company-owned Starbucks locations have voted to unionize under Starbucks Workers United, according to National Labor Relations Board data as of Friday. The union has filed more than 500 unfair labour practice charges against the company, alleging union busting, including retaliatory firings and store closures. Starbucks has filed more than 100 of its own complaints against the union.

SBUX opened Thursday up 31 cents to $99.43.