Starbucks Fires Union Founder Alexis Rizzo Days After Senate Hearing

The Starbucks unionization drama has hit an all-time intensity as the Starbucks' union founder was just fired from her long-held position at her Buffalo branch. This comes after a 3-hour March 29 congressional hearing where the Senate's Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee heard founder and former Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, testify about his corporation's breaches of federal labor law and the company's anti-union efforts.

Senator Bernie Sanders set the tone and opened the hearing by describing how minimum wage workers are struggling to meet basic standards of living — and how stark wealth inequality in the nation is increasing. Sanders firmly stated, "Judges have found that Starbucks broke the law 130 times across six states since workers began organizing in the fall of 2021."

Shultz was the center focus, as he faced strong questioning as tense exchanges occurred.

Only two days later, the firing of Alexis Rizzo does not come as a surprise for many. Rizzo is considered the employee responsible for starting the Starbucks Workers United union campaign, and her Buffalo store was one of the first locations in the nation to be successful. However, her untimely firing has suggested that the battle between Starbucks and its unionized workers is far from over.

Starbucks Workers Union says, 'This is retaliation at its worst.'

The Starbucks Workers United announced on Twitter on April 1 that the long-time shift supervisor responsible for beginning the movement was let go from her store, along with a couple other employees, only two days after Schultz's congressional appearance. The union made a simple statement, "This is retaliation at its worst."

The reasoning behind her firing is attributed to poor attendance and tardiness issues, infractions that Rizzo claims she started receiving at the beginning of her involvement in the unionizing campaigns. Rizzo asserts she was fired after being only minutes late a couple times, while Starbucks insists several hours of missed work and delayed store openings is to blame. 

While Starbucks maintains that firings only occurred after obvious policy violations, others believe the timing is telling of the true motivations. Rizzo told CNBC, "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."

According to CNN, Rizzo's Starbucks' salary was the only source of income for her household, and her fight to become reinstated has just begun.

As of April 3, the GoFundMe created for Rizzo exceeded its goal of $10,000, and union supporters are rallying behind her. It's likely this firing will continue to spark highly followed disputes between corporate figureheads and union workers, as we watch this continue to play out on a national stage.