Alexis Rizzo Kick-Started The Starbucks Union – And She Was Just Fired

Starbucks has fired the employee responsible for kick-starting the push for unionization at Starbucks locations across the country, reports CNBC. Alex Rizzo, now a former Starbucks employee, worked at the Genesee St. location in Cheektowaga, New York for more than seven years. According to Rizzo, store managers told her that she was being fired for attendance issues. Apparently, Rizzo had arrived late to work four times, and on two of those occasions, she was late by one minute.

Rizzo's termination of employment came at an interesting time, to say the least. She was fired shortly after the new Starbucks CEO affirmed his commitment in an open letter to "always be a fierce advocate" for employees and just two days after former interim CEO Howard Shultz testified in front of Congress regarding Starbucks' alleged union-busting activities. The panel was held by the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Senator Bernie Sanders took the lead on a fiery line of questioning. Shultz maintained that Starbucks had done nothing wrong, though the National Labor Relations Board has found that Starbucks broke federal labor laws around 130 times.

What has the response been to Alexis Rizzo being fired?

Rachel Wall, a spokesperson for Starbucks, said that repeated infractions caused Rizzo to miss four hours of work and that Rizzo's termination was based on clear company policy. Rizzo told CNBC, "I'm absolutely heartbroken. It wasn't just a job for me. It was like my family."

The union, Starbucks Workers United, was quick to condemn Starbucks' actions. On a GoFundMe page created to financially support Alexis Rizzo, Starbucks Workers United called the termination of her employment "retaliation at its worst." The union also organized a strike at the store Rizzo worked at in response to her firing.

While there are plenty of folks expressing "get a job" or "stop complaining" sentiments, others expressed their support of Rizzo and Starbucks workers. Twitter user @EleanorSanto3 responded to Starbucks Workers United saying, "Suspicious timing. Starbucks expects us to believe that she was such a terrible employee that it took them seven years to fire her ... right after she started a union at one of their facilities??" @AdamLocher commented, "How many times does Starbucks have to be taken to task by the NLRB before corporate management comes to their senses and stops firing union organizers and starts negotiating in good faith???"

Whether Starbucks' actions are warranted or outrageous remains to be seen, but the Starbucks union will surely continue to demand improvements. For her part, Alexis Rizzo told CNN that she will fight "tooth and nail" to get her job back.