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Vice has a story about how as Howard Schultz returned to Starbucks as its CEO and held a town hall meeting with employees yesterday, he referred to the company as being "assaulted" by unionization movements.

And, on the same day that Schultz made that comment, Vice reports that "an outspoken organizer and shift supervisor at a store in Arizona was fired, the latest in a string of firings of organizers across the country … Roughly an hour after the conclusion of Schultz’s town hall, the company fired Laila Dalton, a 19-year-old shift supervisor and organizer at a store in Phoenix—one day before the store’s employees were to begin voting on a union. The National Labor Relations Board issued a formal complaint against Starbucks last month for its treatment of Dalton, finding that Starbucks retaliated against her and another employee because they supported the union."

Starbucks says that Dalton was fired "because she admitted to recording conversations involving store managers that she wasn’t part of."  Dalton has admitted to making the recordings, but said she did so in order to have proof of harassment.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that "Starbucks Corp General Counsel Rachel Gonzalez was dismissed from her role … according to a regulatory filing on Tuesday."

Here is the Schultz town hall quote:  "We can’t ignore what is happening in the country as it relates to companies throughout the country being assaulted, in many ways, by the threat of unionization."  Schultz also said that he  was "not anti-union," but rather "pro-Starbucks."

At the same time, Vice reports, "Schultz echoed rhetoric that’s common among anti-union executives and managers, calling unions 'outside organizations' and referring to Starbucks as 'a company that does not need someone in between us and our people.'

"Schultz also pointed to how the company has grown since he bought it in 1987 - when it had just 11 stores - as proof it doesn’t need a union.  'I took us all the way today,' Schultz said. 'We didn’t get here by having a union'."

KC's View:

My visceral reaction to that last Schultz quote is that he used the dreaded "I" word - attributing the company's growth to his own work and vision, as opposed to acknowledging that the people he likes to call "partners," working on the front lines, have had a lot to do with that success.

The indications are that this going to get ugly, but I'll say again what I've said here before - if I were Schultz, I'd get out of Seattle and spend time in the stores, focusing on addressing the issues being raised by his "partners" and ignoring the union issue as much as possible.

The way this seems to be going, he's addressing the symptom, not the disease.