Former CEO and largest shareholder of Starbucks Howard Schultz is under fire after using a bizarre analogy to the Holocaust in an attempt to dissuade workers at the coffee chain from unionizing.
Schultz delivered his comments at a meeting in Buffalo, New York, where three Starbucks locations are on the verge of a historic vote to unionize that could have repercussions not just for Starbucks, but for the food-service and retail industries as a whole.
Schultz, who is Jewish, attempted to draw a comparison between the supposed selflessness of Starbucks' corporate culture and that of Jewish Holocaust victims who were forced to help each other during their kidnapping, imprisonment and murder in Nazi Germany.
See his comments below.
Howard Schultz compares workers to prisoners of Nazisyoutu.be
Schultz included a story of how European Jews were often forced to share one blanket among several people when they were herded into train cars to be deported to death camps, comparing this to the way Starbucks treats its employees and imploring the Buffalo employees to do the same for the company.
"Not everyone but most people shared their blanket with five other people. So much of that story is threaded into what we've tried to do at Starbucks is share our blanket."
Schultz noted that the story came from a rabbi he met in Israel, who urged the billionaire then-CEO to "share his blanket" as the captured Jews in the story had been forced to do.
Schultz seems not to have understood the rabbi's point, though; he used the story in an attempt to convince Starbucks workers not to try to access the more livable wages and benefits his company is not willing to give them.
That's aside, of course, from the fact that there is no legitimate comparison between Jews being led to their murder by an ethno-nationalist dictatorship engaging in genocide and Starbucks employees trying to unionize for better wages and benefits, and there's no real way to justify asking employees to "share their blanket with five other people."
Schultz's speech is just the latest chapter in an ongoing union-busting effort by Starbucks, which has included requiring employees to attend mandatory anti-union meetings, sending employees anti-union emails, temporarily closing two Starbucks locations that were attempting to unionize, and visits from high-profile executives at the company.
Unionization is a Constitutional right of all employees protected by the First Amendment.
By most accounts, Schultz's speech was not well received, and when a worker responded by asking Schultz to sign an agreement for "fair election principles" in the employees' upcoming unionization vote, Schultz fled the room.
Schultz's speech went over like a lead balloon on Twitter, too, where people were astonished by his tone-deaf message.
A spokesperson for Starbucks has yet to comment on Schultz's speech. The company has since sought to delay the Buffalo stores' Constitutionally protected unionization vote.