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Olympia Coffee Earns Living Wage Certification for US Workers

Olympia Coffee 1

The Olympia Coffee West Seattle cafe. All images courtesy of Olympia Coffee Roasting Co.

Olympia, Washington-based Olympia Coffee Roasting Co. has secured third-party certification as a living wage provider to its staff at the company’s seven retail locations in Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle.

The certification, called Living Wage for Us, is a third-party certification launched last November by former Global Living Wage Coalition coordinator Michelle Murray, who sought to apply some of the same living wage principles to the United States as is often applied to agricultural sectors in less wealthy countries.

Olympia Coffee shop

The agency calculates U.S. living wages on a county-by-county basis, while offering numerous tiers of certifications. Olympia Coffee has reached the certification’s top tier, called Plus, which recognizes employer efforts beyond wages, such as the provision of insurance benefits, extra paid time off, employee training and more.

Inclusive of benefits, all staff of Olympia Coffee and sibling brand Moonrise Bakery in Seattle are making at least $21.02 per hour, the baseline hourly wage for Olympia’s region, according to the Living Wage for Us standard.

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“When we offer jobs that provide living wages and benefits, we invite new communities of people into the talent pool, opening up opportunities for people from underrepresented and/or underserved communities to participate in specialty coffee,” Olympia Coffee HR and AP/AR Manager Richelle Parker told DCN via email. “This model has brought us a larger breadth and depth of diversity in the staff joining our teams. It’s also allowed us to staff seven cafes with no current vacancies — a difficult feat to accomplish during a pandemic. Paying a living wage means that our people tend to stay, which means better, more knowledgeable, and more experienced service for our customers.”

Olympia told DCN that the living wage certification is complementary to the company’s pioneering direct trade sourcing program called Fair For All. Launched in 2018, the sourcing program promotes transparency, long-term cooperation with farmers and prices that allow for a living wage among all actors in the coffee supply chain, including farm laborers. In the most recent reporting year (2020), the company reported paying $3.61 per pound (FOB) for green coffee.

Olympia Coffee barista

“From the founding of Olympia Coffee, our goal has been to build a company that improves the quality of life for everyone connected to it,” Olympia Coffee CEO and Co-Owner Oliver Stormshak said in an announcement of the new domestic certification. “This third-party audit and certification from Living Wage for US clarifies that we are doing this in a real, measurable way for our staff, and it holds us accountable to our mission.”

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andy carlton

Great to see the logic of sustainable livelihoods being practiced in USA, where it so seldom is. $3.61/lb FOB is OK right now. But who is Olympia actually buying from? Farmer groups, coops, small exporters, multinationals, importers? How does Olympia source relatively small lots from origin? Or is it buying full containers? As a small exporter based in Uganda I’m interested in how a fairly small roaster manages to buy direct. Not easy to do.

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