BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Another controversy is brewing between Starbucks Workers United and the coffee giant. A longtime employee and union organizer says she was unfairly fired.

Alexis Rizzo worked at the Starbucks on Genesee Street across from the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport for seven years. She was also a key player in sparking the Starbucks labor movement. But, as of Friday, she’s out of a job.

Rizzo told us a manager sat her down and fired her for tardiness. The longtime barista and supervisor said most instances she was late was only by a few minutes.

“It was only a matter of time and I’ve been trying to be perfect every day that I’ve been at work, so I can’t give them an opportunity,” added Rizzo. “But, they’ve been setting me up to fail since the beginning. They had me closing the store every Friday night until 8 p.m. and then opening the store every Saturday at 5 a.m. I had eight and a half hours between when I got off work and when I had to be at work the next day. And I was working five days a week and eventually, I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Rizzo did take responsibility for oversleeping and showing up an hour late to an opening shift, causing the store to open late.

“And that morning that I did oversleep I was distraught,” Rizzo told News 4. “I called my store manager sobbing because I knew that I was going to be fired eventually for that when it happened. I knew it was over. I didn’t know when it would happen, but I knew that it would happen.

“I tried to be perfect, but I just couldn’t be perfect forever. So, yes I made a mistake. But, I was put in a position where anybody would have made a mistake. And I did try.”

Her firing came two days after former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz was grilled by lawmakers on Capitol Hill about labor practices. Rizzo believes that was no coincidence and that corporate had been trying to get rid of her for years.

Starbucks tells News 4, they stand by its decision.

They say Rizzo violated company policy for missing more than four hours of work over six instances.

  • Our policies exist so that we can maintain a welcoming environment for all partners and customers. 
  • Separations follow clear violations of policies, only, and in this case the partner had been on a progressive disciplinary track for missing more than four hours of work over six instances. 
  • We appreciate that our Genesee Street partners provided the Starbucks Experience to each other and our customers Saturday morning, and that all area stores have continued to serve customers without interruption. 
Starbucks Spokesperson

A GoFundMe was set up to help Rizzo and has reached more than $10,000. She said she wants her job back and filed an unfair labor practice charge against Starbucks through the National Labor Relations Board.

New on WIVB.com

Patrick Ryan is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2020. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.