Just days after former CEO Howard Schultz appeared before a Senate committee to face questioning over the company’s brazen union-busting campaign, Starbucks fired a worker credited with sparking the organizing drive that has resulted in nearly 300 unionized shops across the United States.
Alexis Rizzo worked as a shift supervisor at Starbucks’ Genesee St. location in Buffalo, one of the first two U.S. stores to win a union election in late 2021.
“Lexi Rizzo was a seven-year shift supervisor at Starbucks who ignited the Starbucks Workers United movement that took the country by storm,” reads a GoFundMe page started by Starbucks Workers United organizer Casey Moore.
The page characterized Rizzo’s firing as “retaliation at its worst” and asked for support to help “Lexi pay her bills as we fight for justice and her job back.”
Rizzo is one of dozens of union organizers that Starbucks has fired since late 2021, according to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which has accused the company of hundreds of labor law violations. Just last month, an NLRB judge ordered Starbucks to reinstate seven Buffalo-area workers who were illegally fired.
Rizzo toldCNBC on Saturday that she is “absolutely heartbroken” by the termination, saying: “It wasn’t just a job for me. It was like my family. 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.”
According to CNBC, 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 had been one minute late. Rizzo suspects she was let go as a result of Wednesday’s Senate hearing.”
“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 told the outlet, noting that two other workers were also fired on Friday.
The Wednesday hearing was led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who used his time to grill Schultz about his role in Starbucks’ aggressive and ongoing efforts to crush union organizing at the company, which has been accused of withholding raises and tips from union workers, unlawfully denying new benefits to organized shops, and illegally obstructing contract negotiations.
Schultz, who denied any wrongdoing in testimony that Starbucks workers said was full of lies, stepped down as CEO last month but remains on the company’s board.
In a Twitter post late Saturday, Sanders wrote that “instead of negotiating a first union contract as required by law, Starbucks has chosen to double down on its illegal union busting by firing Alexis Rizzo, a union leader in Buffalo who worked for Starbucks for seven years.”
“That is beyond unacceptable,” the senator added. “Ms. Rizzo must be reinstated.”
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