Starbucks manager who started massive union campaign fired days after former CEO testifies

Alexis Rizzo, the Starbucks employee who ignited the Starbucks Workers United union campaign was terminated just days after former CEO Howard Schultz testified on Capitol Hill concerning alleged union-busting.

(Video Credit: CNBC Television)

Rizzo has been a shift supervisor at the coffee chain for seven years. She is also a union leader at the Genesee St. store in Buffalo, New York. It was one of the first two outlets in the country to unionize.

Her firing was announced by Starbucks Workers United via a tweet that was sent out on Saturday. On the union’s GoFundMe page, they proclaimed, “This is retaliation at its worst.”

“I’m absolutely heartbroken. It wasn’t just a job for me. It was like my family,” Rizzo told CNBC during an interview. “It was like losing everything. I’ve been there since I was 17 years old. It’s like my entire support system, and I think that they knew that.”

Managers terminated Rizzo after she finished her shift on Friday, taking her by total surprise. She was given the reason that it was because she had been late on four occasions. In two of those instances, she was reportedly only one minute late.

(Video Credit: ABC News)

Starbucks claimed to CNBC in an interview that Rizzo had missed over four hours during the course of her tardiness. They said she had been repeatedly issued write-ups for being late as well.

Rachel Wall, a spokesperson for Starbucks, asserted that terminations only occur following clear violations of policies. She pointed to numerous attendance violations.

“We appreciate that our Genesee St. partners provided the Starbucks Experience to each other and our customers this morning, and that area stores continue to serve customers without interruption this weekend,” she said in a statement to CNBC.

As for Rizzo, she believes that the Senate hearing on Wednesday with Schultz triggered her termination.

Schultz was grilled by well-known socialist, Sen. Bernie Sanders over the company’s labor and union practices. Sanders is very pro-union, hailing from Vermont. He has applied ever-increasing pressure on Starbucks over the past year to recognize the union and negotiate contracts with unionized cafes.

Sanders chairs the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which conducted the panel that barraged the former CEO with a ton of questions.

Sanders accused Starbucks of engaging in the “most aggressive and illegal union-busting campaign in the modern history of our country.” He also charged them with stalling on collective bargaining agreements, counting on workers to give up and leave the coffee chain before an agreement could be reached.

Schultz defended his company and its approach to union negotiations. He claimed that a direct relationship with workers is what is best for Starbucks. He denied over and over again that the company had broken federal labor law. Schultz also contended that his time as CEO was spent 99% on operations, not handling union issues.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that two days after Howard Schultz had his ego bruised the way that he did that he started lashing out at Buffalo,” Rizzo asserted. She noted that two other employees were fired on Friday as well.

According to CNBC:

Nearly 300 Starbucks cafes have voted to unionize under Starbucks Workers United, according to data from the National Labor Relations Board. In total, the union has made more than 500 complaints of unfair labor practices related to Starbucks with the federal labor board. Starbucks has filed roughly 100 of its own complaints against the union. Judges have found that the company has broken federal labor law 130 times.


“The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found Starbucks guilty of excluding unionized employees from receiving pay raises, tips, and benefits, as well as refusing to engage in contract negotiations with unionized stores,” Quartz reported. “In March, an NLRB judge ruled that the company violated labor laws hundreds of times in Buffalo, ordering the reinstatement of seven unfairly fired employees.”

A contract has not been agreed upon yet between any of the unionized stores and Starbucks.

Rizzo claims she is still “in shock” over being fired, but she plans to fight back.

“We’re going to keep fighting to make things right,” she remarked. “I’m going to fight for my job back and to get reinstated.”

“To me, this is payback, and it’s vindictive and retaliatory, and just simple mean-spirited.” Richard Bensinger, a union organizer and senior advisor to Starbucks Workers United, said in an interview with The Buffalo News.

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