Starbucks Fires Union Leader Alexis Rizzo, Sparks Controversy and Worker Strike
Starbucks has fired Alexis Rizzo, the worker who led the unionization campaign at a Buffalo, New York location, after she was grilled by the Senate's Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions. Rizzo's termination was reportedly due to missing several work hours, which Starbucks claimed were in violation of company policy and impacted other workers at the store. However, the timing of the firing, just after new CEO affirmed his commitment to advocating for employees, has raised questions about retaliation. Rizzo's former co-workers went on a one-day strike in response to her firing, while Starbucks Workers United started a GoFundMe campaign for her.
This firing comes after former interim CEO Howard Schultz testified in front of Congress regarding Starbucks' alleged union-busting activities. Senator Bernie Sanders led a fiery line of questioning during the panel held by the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Schultz maintained that Starbucks had done nothing wrong, though the National Labor Relations Board has found that Starbucks broke federal labor laws around 130 times.
Starbucks Workers United, the union representing workers at the Buffalo location, called Rizzo's termination “retaliation at its worst” and organized a strike at the store in response. The union has condemned Starbucks' actions and created a GoFundMe page to financially support Rizzo.
Last month, the National Labor Relations Board found that Starbucks committed “egregious and widespread” violations of labor law when it fired six pro-union workers in Buffalo and Rochester. The workers were ordered to be rehired and compensated by the company. Additionally, nearly 300 Starbucks cafes have voted to unionize, with the union making over 500 complaints of unfair labor practices. The union has received approximately 100 complaints filed by Starbucks.
Rizzo had worked at the Genesee Street store in Buffalo for over seven years and had served as a union leader. The store was one of the first two locations to officially win their union campaigns in January 2022 after the federal labor board certified its results. The union was first contacted by Rizzo, the worker.
Rizzo has expressed heartbreak over her termination, stating that the job was like her family and her support system. She has vowed to fight “tooth and nail” to get reinstated, calling the firing “retaliation at its worst.”
The controversy surrounding Starbucks and its treatment of workers has brought attention to the issue of unionization in the service industry. As more workers become aware of their rights and the benefits of unionizing, it remains to be seen how companies like Starbucks will respond.
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