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Starbucks fired employee responsible for Workers United union campaign ft

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz testifies about the company’s labor and union practices during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on March 29, 2023.

Saul Loeb | AFP | fake images

Starbucks fired Alexis Rizzo, the employee responsible for starting the Starbucks Workers United union campaign, just days after the company’s former CEO, Howard Schultz, testified about capitol hill about the alleged union repression of the coffee chain, confirmed CNBC.

Rizzo worked as a shift supervisor at Starbucks for 7 years and served as a union leader at the Genesee St. store in Buffalo, New York, which was one of the first two stores in the country to win its union campaign.

Starbucks Workers United announced the firing of Rizzo in a tweet on Saturday and said in a corresponding GoFundMe page that “this is retaliation at its worst.”

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

Rizzo said her store managers fired her after she finished working her shift Friday. She said they told her it was because she had been late on four occasions, two of which were instances where she was one minute late. Rizzo suspects she was fired as a result of Wednesday’s Senate hearing, she said.

Schultz faced a series of tough questions from Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday about Starbucks labor and union practices. Sanders, a pro-union independent representing Vermont, has been lobbying Starbucks for more than a year to recognize the union and negotiate contracts with unionized cafes.

Sanders chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which led the panel.

During the hearing, Sanders said that Starbucks has engaged in the “most aggressive and illegal anti-union campaign in the modern history of our country.” He also accused the company of stalling on collective agreements, betting that workers will give up and leave the coffee chain.

Schultz defended Starbucks’ approach in its negotiations, arguing that a direct relationship with workers is best for the company. He also repeatedly denied that the company ever violated federal labor law and said his focus during his time as interim CEO was 99% on operations, not fighting the union.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that two days after Howard Schultz got his ego bruised the way he did, he started lashing out at Buffalo,” Rizzo said. He added that two other employees were also fired on Friday.

Starbucks spokeswoman Rachel Wall said the separations at the company only follow clear policy violations. In this case, she said there were numerous attendance violations that were affecting other baristas at this store.

“We appreciate our Genesee St. partners bringing the Starbucks Experience to each other and our customers this morning, and area stores continuing to serve customers without interruption this weekend,” he told CNBC in a statement.

Nearly 300 Starbucks coffee shops voted to unionize under Starbucks Workers United, according to data from the National Labor Relations Board. In all, the union has filed more than 500 Starbucks-related unfair labor practice complaints with the federal labor board. Starbucks has filed approximately 100 of its own grievances against the union. Judges have determined that the company has violated federal labor law 130 times.

None of the unionized stores have reached an agreement with Starbucks yet.

Rizzo said she is still “in shock” from being fired, but plans to fight for her position.

“We are going to continue fighting to make things right,” he said. “I’m going to fight to get my job back and get reinstated.”

— CNBC’s Amelia Lucas contributed to this report.



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