Starbucks shareholders approve review of labor union practices

NEW YORK, March 29 (Reuters) - Starbucks shareholders approved a proposal for the coffee chain to conduct an independent assessment of its labor practices as it contends with hundreds of newly unionized U.S. cafes, according to voting results filed on Wednesday.

The proposal won 52% of votes. Results came the same day ex-Chief Executive Howard Schultz testified before a U.S. Senate committee, defending the company against claims that it illegally fired pro-union employees, among other allegations.

"The majority support from shareholders for our proposal reflects a growing demand for an honest accounting of the discrepancy between Starbucks' purported values and management's anti-union behavior," New York City Comptroller Brad Lander said in a statement.

The city's public pension funds and a coalition of other shareholders, who combined hold about 2.2 million Starbucks shares, proposed the assessment.

"It is clear from the vote result in the proposal that our investors share our commitment to our partners," Starbucks said in its regulatory filing disclosing the results.

Starbucks reiterated that it is now "undertaking an independent, third-party human rights impact assessment, which will include a deeper-level review of the principles of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining."

The Seattle-based company said it will use findings of the review to "understand how we can best support our partners."

Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Stephen Coates

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Hilary Russ writes about global restaurant chains including McDonald's and Starbucks. She previously covered sports betting, as well as municipal bonds, public finance and infrastructure. Hilary previously worked at Law360 covering corporate bankruptcies, white collar crime and the U.S. Supreme Court. At The Cape Cod Times and City Limits, she covered local courts, general news and social and public policy issues. She is an avid bird watcher.