Starbucks fired union employee

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

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Starbucks Alexis Rizzo, the employee responsible for sparking the Starbucks union campaign, was fired just days after former company CEO Howard Schultz testified about the Capitol Hill About the coffee chain’s alleged union breach, CNBC confirmed.

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

Starbucks Workers United has announced the termination of Rizzo in a tweet Saturday He said in a corresponding GoFundMe page that “this is revenge at its worst”.

“I’m so sad,” Rizzo told CNBC in an interview. “It wasn’t just a job for me. It was like my family.” “It was like losing everything. I’d been there since I was 17. It’s like my whole support system, and I think they knew that.”

Rizzo said her store managers fired her after she finished her shift on Friday. She said they told her it was because she was late on four occasions — two of which she was a minute late. Rizzo said she suspects she will be released as a result of Wednesday’s Senate hearing.

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

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Sanders chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which moderated the committee.

During the hearing, Sanders said that Starbucks engaged in “the most aggressive and illegal union-busting campaign in the recent history of our country.” He also accused the company of dragging its feet on collective bargaining agreements, and bet that workers would give up and leave the coffee chain.

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

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

Starbucks spokeswoman Rachel Wall said the company’s dismissal only followed clear policy violations. In this case, she said, there were multiple attendance violations that affected other baristas at that store location.

“We appreciate that our partners in Genesee St. 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 told CNBC in a statement.

Nearly 300 Starbucks coffeehouses have voted to join the Starbucks labor union, according to data from the National Labor Relations Council. In total, the union has filed more than 500 complaints of unfair labor practices related to Starbucks with the Federal Labor Board. Starbucks has filed nearly 100 complaints against the union. The judges found that the company broke the federal labor law 130 times.

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No union stores have yet agreed to a contract with Starbucks.

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

“We will continue to fight to make things right,” she said. “I will fight to get my job back and be reinstated.”

— CNBC’s Amelia Lucas contributed to this report.

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