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Starbucks fires employee responsible for Workers United union campaign – CNBC

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

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Starbucks fired Alexis Rizzo, the employee responsible for igniting the Starbucks Workers United union campaign, days after the company’s former CEO Howard Schultz testified. Capitol Hill Regarding the coffee chain’s alleged union-blasting, CNBC confirmed.

Rizzo worked at Starbucks for 7 years as a shift supervisor and 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 Announce Rizzo’s Termination in a tweet on Saturday and said in the related GoFundMe page that “this is retaliation at its worst.”

“I’m completely heartbroken. This 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 manager fired her after she finished her Friday shift. She said they told her she was late on four occasions – two of which were instances where she was over a minute late. Rizzo suspects she was let go as a result of Wednesday’s Senate hearing, she said.

Schultz faced tough questions Wednesday from Sen. Bernie Sanders about Starbucks’ labor and union practices. 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 cafes.

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

During the hearing, Sanders said Starbucks engaged in “the most aggressive and illegal union-busting campaign in the modern history of our country”. He also accused the company of reneging on collective bargaining agreements, stipulating that employees would quit and leave the coffee chain.

Schultz defended Starbucks’ approach to their negotiations, maintaining that a direct relationship with the workers is what is best for the company. He also denied several times that the company ever broke federal labor law and said that his focus as interim CEO was 99% on operations, not battling the union.

Rizzo said, “I don’t think it’s any coincidence that two days after Howard Schultz had his ego hurt like that he started attacking Buffalo.” He said two other employees were also fired on Friday.

Starbucks spokeswoman Rachel Wall said separations at the company only follow clear violations of policies. In this case, she stated that there were several attendance violations that were affecting other baristas at this store location.

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

According to data from the National Labor Relations Board, nearly 300 Starbucks cafes have voted to unionize under Starbucks Workers United. 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 of its own against the union. Judges found that the company broke federal labor laws 130 times.

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

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

“We will keep fighting to make things right,” she said. “I’m going to fight to get my job back and be reinstated.”

— CNBC’s Amelia Lucas contributed to this report.


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