Wednesday, workers at Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Co. walked the picket line to demand that the café’s owners recognise their union. Among the complaints were that the café’s 13 employees were dissatisfied with the inconsistency of COVID-19 mitigation efforts and protocols.
According to Lex Blom, one of the workers, they intend to strike until they obtain a contract and have contacted a local hospitality union to facilitate the process. One of the demands is an increase in the starting wage of $10 to $12 per hour.
“We’re requesting higher wages, as well as more transparent and strictly enforced COVID protocol and personal protective equipment,” Blom explains. “We’re requesting reimbursement for child care, parental leave, and a few other things.”
Great Lakes Coffee closed in January due to a coronavirus outbreak among its employees. Employees claimed they were working in an unsafe environment.
“These workers are rewriting the history of labour,” says UNITE HERE Local 24 President Winston. “This is the country’s only coffee shop drive organising campaign leading a recognition strike.”
“These workers are rewriting the history of labour,” Winston says. “This is the country’s only coffee shop drive organising campaign leading a recognition strike. And let us discuss the City of Detroit and the Detroit metropolitan area. This has not occurred in decades.”
According to Blom, their strike is part of a burgeoning movement.
Starbucks baristas in Michigan and across the country are organising in the face of growing union support. This fall, high-profile strikes at Kellogg and John Deere resulted in new contracts for workers.
“The hope is that if we are able to succeed in this, and we’re able to get better for ourselves, that we’re able to show the other baristas in the metro Detroit area and just in the coffee industry at large that yes, this is a booming industry that can support better and you deserve better.”
Winston is not interested in hearing that baristas and restaurant workers should forego unionisation.