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Gimme! Coffee Unionized Baristas Ratify First Labor Contract

Left to right: Gimme! baristas Samantha Mason and David Torrey. Photo courtesy of Gimme! Coffee

After months of negotiations, baristas from the four Ithaca, New York locations of Gimme! Coffee have unanimously ratified their first labor contract with management as official members of Workers United Local 2833.

A press release published on the Tompkins County Workers’ Center website announced that the baristas’ contract includes a newly established paid sick leave program; a union “just cause” clause to protect workers from unfair discipline or discharge; monthly joint labor/management meetings, and other new developments.

Barista Korbin Richards, who was on the organizing committee in the run-up to joining the union, characterized the contract as a give and take.

“We didn’t get financial transparency and worthwhile higher wages but agreed on the condition of a one-year economic reopener,” Richards told Daily Coffee News. “That being said, we won pure just cause, paid sick days, a solid break policy and a grievance and arbitration procedure.”

Gimme! Coffee organizing meeting. Photo courtesy of Gimme! Coffee.

Upstate New York baristas for Gimme! Coffee voted 16 to 1 for non-managerial workers to form a union in June of last year, thereby officially becoming members of Workers United Local 2833. Since then, according to barista Samantha Mason, a palpable shift in attitudes among workers has occurred.

“We’ve seen so much change,” Mason told Daily Coffee News. “Workers are talking together more about workplace issues and brainstorming how to take action and solve them. It’s a step in proclaiming our autonomy at work, whether or not management supports that trend. We have so much community support for what we’ve done and can’t wait to see how our union’s relationships develop in the coming year.”

The new contract took effect immediately upon execution. Mason said that the immediate next step for Gimme! Coffee unionized baristas is to implement the contract, and make sure all workers understand how work is different with it in place.

Gimme! Baristas Union photo courtesy of Gimme! Coffee

“For example, we’re already challenging a disciplinary action against an employee, and that’s something we couldn’t do if we weren’t protected by the contract,” said Mason. “Part of this process is training Union Stewards, or what we call Barista Advocates, who will support and represent other baristas through conflict/unfair discipline.”

“We’re also excited to continue building worker solidarity through projects like our newsletter, empowerment workshops, and conflict-resolution training,” added Richards. “And we’re still heavily involved in the Tompkins County Hospitality Project and encourage non-organized workers to talk to us about unionizing.”




Sorry folks . . . experience tells me this is a sad day for coffee. To the consumers in New York and the Barista’s . . . Good luck wit-dat!


Agree with Don – and if a company I work for doesn’t offer something in the form of benefits I would like to have, leave. Work for someone that does. Trying to force a company to do something it can’t or otherwise doesn’t want to do will never go well in the end. I wish I got sick days or a paid vacation at my shop. HA! What is that anyway? What I get is just more work.


This will be something to follow. What will it be like two, five, ten years on? No one knows. WHO actually owns the company now? If the owners can’t deal with unsatisfactory behaviour amongst staff, who can/will? If not the owner, he no longer owns the company, as ownership includes control. If the union now hs control, what protects the owner’s capital investment? the union/unionised employees certainly will not be looking after THAT figure now…. will they…

Before ever consenting to letting a union take over MY business I’d put the idea of an employee ownership model on the table. Then everyone working there will have a vested interest in making the place the best and most profitable possible. It IS done. Some of my favourite merchants to trade with are employee owned or at least have employees also being stakeholders of some sort. NO ONE takes better care of a business than the owners.

I hope you report on how things are going in two years. Is the business more profitable for anyone, or have profits declined? Is the ROI of the stakeholders where it ought to be? Are labout issues handled in ways that benefit both the wage earners AND the wage payers? Any business is a delicate balance between many factors. Get too greedy on one, it can pull down the whole house.

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