Starbucks fires Alexis Rizzo, the Buffalo union worker who “ignited a movement” to organize

New York (CNN) Starbucks has fired a worker in Buffalo, New York, who “ignited a movement” at one of the coffee chain’s first stores to organize, Starbucks Workers United said Friday.

The firing came the same week that former CEO Howard Schultz testified before Congress, where he was grilled by lawmakers over the company’s labor practices and alleged union racketeering.

Alexis Rizzo had been a supervisor at the Genesee Street store in Buffalo for 7 years, the union said. That store was one of the first of two locations to officially win their union campaigns in January 2022 after the Federal Labor Board certified the results. Rizzo was the worker who first contacted the union.

“This is retaliation at its worst,” Starbucks Workers United said in a statement. The union noted that two other employees were fired and a union leader was fired.

CNN is still seeking comment from Starbucks and Rizzo.

“Instead of negotiating an initial union contract as required by law, Starbucks has chosen to double down on its illegal unionization by firing Alexis Rizzo,” Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted Friday night, Rizzo said “has to be reinstated.”

The pro-union senator pressed Schultz’s alleged union-busting tactics when he testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday.

“Over the past 18 months, Starbucks has waged the most aggressive and illegal anti-union campaign in our modern history,” Sanders said.

Schultz noted at the hearing that the company’s baristas earn an average of $17.50 an hour, which is more than the minimum wage in several states, “including, respectfully, Chairman Sanders’ [state]”, referring to Vermont.

The three-time CEO claimed that he prefers the company to have a direct relationship with its employees rather than going through a union, and denied that the company broke labor laws or that he was a union bust.

Nearly 300 locations have voted to join Starbucks Workers United. The judges of the National Labor Relations Board found that Starbucks has committed 130 labor violations and the agency has issued more than 70 official complaints against it. Starbucks has filed its own series of complaints against the union, and in his congressional testimony, Schultz said the company considers those allegations “allegations,” not findings of fact.

Starbucks and the union have yet to sign a contract.

“What’s outrageous to me is not just Starbucks’ anti-union activities and their willingness to break the law, it’s their calculated and deliberate effort to stop, stop and stop,” Sanders said at the hearing.

In a statement, the union said: “Starbucks can fire our leaders, but they cannot stop our movement or stop the public from seeing the truth.”

CNN’s Danielle Wiener-Bronner contributed to this story.

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