An Ann Arbor coffee chain is reportedly closing down its cafes after its baristas organized a union. Employees at Mighty Good Coffee tell WXYZ that they were in the midst of their first union contract negotiation when they received notice on Monday, April 15 that all four of the company’s cafes would be shuttering on Friday, April 19.
Mighty Good Coffee’s baristas started a union organizing drive last August to improve labor conditions at the company after a former worker Nya Njee accused the company of racial discrimination. In a public statement at the time, Mighty Good Coffee acknowledged the discrimination claims and announced that it would “conduct and internal review” of the accusations. Njee later sued Mighty Good Coffee and, according to Munchies, settled in December. The settlement included a non-disclosure agreement that barred Njee from discussing the case. The barista’s union, known as Washtenaw Area Coffee Workers’ Association, was officially recognized in October and has since inspired other baristas around the country to pursue similar union efforts.
A letter provided to workers by an attorney for Mighty Good Coffee stated that the business was closing because it was “overly stressful” and “created an unworkable burden on [the owner’s] relationship and their family,” according to WXYZ.
Per a statement on the WACWA’s Facebook page, the union had filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board last week for “chronically short staffing their workers,” before receiving notice of the layoffs. Employees at the cafes organized protests on Tuesday. They alleged that non-union members will be allowed to continue Mighty Good Coffee’s roasting business, while union workers will be left without jobs.
Mighty Good Coffee’s Facebook account appears to have been shut down and its Twitter account has been silent since last August. The company’s website is still active and does not address the possible closures. The company’s Yelp pages have received several recent one-star posts criticizing Mighty Good for its “mistreatment” of workers. Eater reached out to Mighty Good Coffee for comment and did not receive a response at press time.
Union organizing efforts have been on the rise in the United States’ food and beverage industry since the recession as wages have stagnated. The Fight for $15 movement among fast food workers has been perhaps the most prominent push in the industry, however workers at breweries such as Sapporo-owned Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco and Oregon-based chain Burgerville have recently made major steps towards forming unions.