Starbucks’ Howard Schultz Had a Meltdown in the Senate. Then He Sought Revenge.
Plus: Hollywood writers go on strike.
Lexi Rizzo began working as a barista at Starbucks in Florida when she was 17 years old. By 2019, she’d thought about unionizing the store where she worked, but it seemed impossible. Then Covid hit, baristas were left alone and exposed in stores around the country, and there were suddenly some very knowledgeable coworkers interested in helping her organize a few stores in Buffalo, NY, where she’d moved a few years earlier.
This April, about two years and more than 300 unionized stores later, Rizzo was fired by Starbucks for being a few minutes late to work. And there’s no doubt in her mind who was responsible for the firing — she’d just seen him on TV a few days earlier, and something told her that the axe was about to fall.
Starbucks founder Howard Schultz spent much of the past decade plotting out runs for the White House, believing that his polished rags-to-riches biography and image as an empathetic businessman made him a perfect candidate to bring reason and stability to Washington. None of those campaigns ever got off the ground, and neither did his supposed candidacy to serve as Hillary Clinton’s Secretary of Labor. In March, the 69-year-old finally found himself in Washington, sitting before a panel of U.S. Senators, but hardly under the circumstances he’d anticipated.
Schultz was testifying to the Senate HELP committee under threat of subpoena, cast as an enemy of union workers, an accusation he barely tried to bat away. He’d returned to Starbucks as interim CEO nearly one year ago, ostensibly to guide the company through stormy seas, but very obviously there to crush the nascent unionization effort by Starbucks Workers United. While he’d been able to slow the rate of unionizing, it’d required Starbucks to blatantly break the law over and over again, including by firing more than 200 pro-union workers. Schultz had cemented his legacy in Washington: no company has had as many NLRB complaints and trials in a single year.
When he finished testifying, he rushed out of the Senate building, ignoring entreaties by a Buffalo-based union worker named Gianna Reeve, who had made the trip to DC, to sign the union’s Fair Elections Principles. The principles amounted to a pledge that the company would respect workers’ right to organize and . This was not the first time Schultz had refused Reeve’s request to sign it.
Two days later, Rizzo was fired, as were two other employees in Buffalo, while Reeve was given a formal write-up by her manager, punishment for closing store blinds on a sunny afternoon. The real motivation behind all the disciplinary actions was as clear as day.
Watch our full video report above, or on Twitter or YouTube.
More Perfect Union is reader-supported. Our reporting will always be free, but if you’d like to support our work, please consider a paid subscription.
Breaking: Hollywood Writers Are On Strike
Nearly 20,000 television and film writers went on strike just after midnight, shutting down business as usual in Hollywood.
They’re fighting for their livelihoods against billion-dollar studios and streaming companies that have been squeezing writers to eke out more profits.
We dug into the issues at stake in our recent video report, speaking to writers from hit shows like Abbott Elementary and Containment who described how streaming broke Hollywood. “What I'm accustomed to, as a broadcast writer as a residual, is like $20,000 for an episode of TV. In streaming, I just got a check for the same project for $23.”
Check out the full piece on YouTube or Twitter.
The first thing you can do to support the writers’ strike is bring your solidarity to the picket line. You can find a list of pickets in California and New York here.
You can also email the CEOs of the biggest streaming services to tell them you support the writers and demand they reach a fair deal.
The Writers Guild has posted their contract proposals as well as management’s counteroffers. On many deal terms, the studios simply did not propose a counteroffer, which obviously makes it difficult to reach a compromise.
We’ll have round-the-clock updated strike coverage on Twitter.
More Perfect Union is a nonprofit media outlet with a mission to build power for working people. You can keep up with our work on YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.
We have a separate email list for rapid response and advocacy actions with over 200,000 subscribers. To sign up, simply visit our website and click ‘Subscribe’ in the top right corner.