This morning, appearing in front of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz showed the world that he is crumbling under his origin story and bringing Starbucks down with him.

Schultz loves to tell stories, and in front of Congress today he got the lesson from his favorite one wrong.

In January 1961, the Schultzes were barely getting by, living in a Brooklyn housing project with no health insurance. His mother Elaine was seven months pregnant.

One cold morning, his father Fred was out delivering diapers. He slipped on a patch of ice and fell, breaking his ankle and—depending on Howard’s retelling—either his foot or his hip. Fred was fired and, with no way to pay their bills, the family was forced to rely on charity for help. At his mother’s request, young Howard walked the neighborhood, asking friends and family for loans. In his retelling, Schultz saved his family.

Whenever possible, he avoids mentioning that their government-subsidized apartment kept them housed, or that the goodwill of their neighbors paid their bills for months. That would disrupt his image as Schultz the Savior.

In his 1999 memoir, he said of Starbucks workers: “I was convinced that under my leadership, employees would come to realize that I would listen to their concerns. If they had faith in me and my motives, they wouldn’t need a union.”

In his mind, they only needed Daddy Starbucks. He was CEO during their boom years, and last year he took back the reins to save the company that, in his words, “had lost its way.”

But now, things have never been worse for the company.

On March 1, the NLRB found that in Buffalo, NY, Starbucks violated federal law hundreds of times. The company is currently dealing with more than 500 outstanding Unfair Labor Practice charges against them. And at their annual shareholder meeting last week, investors continually raised the issue of union-busting hurting the company’s public image. Schultz ultimately stepped down as CEO a week earlier than expected.

Nevertheless, Congress compelled him to appear today under threat of subpoena. He came armed with four talking points: Starbucks hasn't broken any laws, it pays a fair wage, it offers great health care, and it is negotiating in good faith—they just want to meet with the unions face-to-face.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, chair of the committee, opened the hearing by challenging Schultz to admit that, under his direction, “Starbucks has waged the most aggressive and illegal union busting campaign in modern history.”

But then and throughout the hearing, Schultz refused to admit fault, even incorrectly repeating that the NLRB ruling in the Buffalo case was an “allegation,” and that Starbucks hadn't broken any laws.

He couldn’t even get help from some of the Republicans on the committee.

“The best avoidance of a union is to treat your employees like family, pay good wages, have good benefits. You do that, you’re probably never going to have a union knocking on your door,” Senator Mike Braun from Indiana said.

“The average wage is $17.50,” Schultz said.

“That’s not a living wage in this day and age,” Braun said. “Any larger corporation shouldn’t be bragging about $15 to $20 wages.”

Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut compared Schultz ignoring the “overwhelming evidence” of Starbucks’ wrongdoing to someone being ticketed for speeding 100 times and claiming each time, “the cop got it wrong.”

Much like in his failed 2020 presidential bid, Schultz failed to reveal anything of substance except for his essential and misguided belief that he alone could fix everyone’s problems.

“Workers should not be dependent on you, Mr. Schultz, and your sense of right and wrong… these workers are just like your father, and they have no rights,” Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts said.

“YOU don’t understand,” Schultz responded angrily, before pivoting back to a talking point about Starbucks’ employee benefits.

Shortly afterward, clearly irritated, he admitted to Senator Ben Luján from New Mexico that workers do not keep those benefits if their hours dip. NLRB found Starbucks guilty of reducing hours for union organizers at their Buffalo store in an attempt to chill organizing efforts. “We adjust our schedule based on our business,” he said in defense. 

Late in the hearing, Schultz looked worn down. Having lost his cool and his main talking points—Starbucks is the victim, they pay their “partners” a fair wage, they offer great health care—he pivoted to his last hope: claiming the Starbucks Workers Union refuses to bargain face-to-face.

An attorney for Starbucks Workers United clarified to me that the NLRB has already ruled that the union is not required to meet with Starbucks in person. This is just another delay tactic, they claim. “It’s not true that Starbucks has been bargaining in good faith when the Board has found Starbucks has broken the law by walking out of every six-minute bargaining session,” says Marina Multhaup of Barnard Iglitzin and Lavitt.

In closing, Senator Sanders challenged Schultz: “Sit down in the next two weeks, come back to us and tell us the success you’ve had in finally negotiating a first contract.”

But in doing so, Schultz would have to reconcile his resemblance to his father’s boss, and admit Starbucks workers deserve better than he’s been willing to offer.

So now, after turning himself into a spectacle of paternalism and delusion, Schultz has put Starbucks on thin ice. According to results released today, Starbucks shareholders voted—against the Board of Directors’ recommendation—in favor of hiring an outside group to conduct an independent third-party assessment of its labor practices. Perhaps soon, new CEO Laxman Narasimhan will read the room and finally offer their “partners” what Howard’s father never had: stable footing.