Starbucks fires Buffalo worker active in unionization effort

Starbucks Workers United, the union organizing Starbucks’ workers, said Lexi Rizzo was fired after arriving a few minutes late for work. It claims the firing was retaliation for Rizzo’s vocal support of the union.

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Starbucks employees and supporters react as votes are read during a union-election watch party Dec. 9, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y.

Starbucks has fired one of the workers who helped kick off a unionization effort at the company.

AP file

Starbucks has fired one of the workers who helped kick off a unionization effort at the company.

Lexi Rizzo, an eight-year Starbucks employee and shift supervisor, was fired from her store in Buffalo, New York, on Friday. Starbucks Workers United, the union organizing Starbucks’ workers, said Rizzo was fired after arriving a few minutes late for work. It claims the firing was retaliation for Rizzo’s vocal support of the union.

Rizzo was one of the workers who first reached out to labor organizers in 2021 to unionize Starbucks stores. Since then, at least 294 of Starbucks’ 9,000 company-owned U.S. stores have voted to unionize, according to the National Labor Relations Board. Seattle-based Starbucks opposes the unionization effort.

Starbucks said Monday that Rizzo was fired for “repeated and substantial violations” of its attendance policy, including one instance where she arrived more than three hours late for a shift. Starbucks said it had documented six instances in which Rizzo missed more than four hours of work.

“Our policies exist to maintain a welcoming environment for all partners and customers, and interest in a union does not exempt partners from following policies and procedures that apply to all,” the company said in a statement.

Rizzo said in a statement that she will fight to be reinstated.

Rizzo’s name appears repeatedly in a decision issued last month by a federal labor judge at the NLRB, who ordered Starbucks to reinstate seven fired workers in Buffalo after finding “egregious and widespread misconduct” by the company.

Among other things, the judge found that Starbucks was inconsistent in warning Rizzo about tardiness and illegally withheld pay raises for her and other supervisors. Starbucks is appealing that ruling.

Starbucks Workers United said two other union supporters in Buffalo and one in Eugene, Oregon, were also fired last week.

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

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