A once-popular Great Lakes Coffee establishment in downtown Detroit, where workers went on strike and attempted to unionize, has closed for good.
“It’s permanent,” attorney Frank Mamat of Dinsmore & Shohl, which represents the store’s coffee supplier, said Tuesday. omicron, and customers felt the same: they weren’t coming. »
The Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Co., at 3965 Woodward Ave., had been closed since Jan. 7, following an outbreak of COVID-19 among nine staff members. Although the closure was initially seen as temporary, it lasted for months as workers complained of unsafe conditions and stayed home.
Great Lakes Coffee is a regional coffee chain and now has four Detroit metro locations and one in Key West, Florida.
On February 16, Midtown workers went on strike, demanding to unionize and negotiate a contract for higher wages and what they called better working conditions. A key request was a minimum wage of $15, not including tips.
The action was considered a “union recognition strike” because the workers were not members of a union.
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The strikers were supported by Local 24, UNITE HERE, which is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO. Local 24 represents hospitality workers at Detroit casinos, select Detroit hotels and Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.
While a majority of cafe workers have signed pledge cards for a union, a vote administered by the National Labor Relations Board had yet to take place.
UNITE HERE filed a complaint this month against Great Lakes Coffee with the Labor Relations Board, accusing the company of violating labor laws by firing workers, while claiming they had voluntarily quit, and close the store to stop the organizing effort.
The unrest among Great Lakes Coffee baristas arose when some Starbucks workers in stores across the country began to unionize.
Starbucks has about 9,000 corporate-run American coffee shops, and as of this week workers at 84 of them have voted to join Workers United, an affiliate of Service Employees International Union, and 250 other locations have filed petitions for a election.
The Starbucks labor movement unfolded quickly; as recently as early December there were no unionized Starbucks in the United States
On May 13, a Starbucks in Grand Rapids became the first location in Michigan to win a unionization election.
Midtown Great Lakes opened in 2012, was one of the biggest cafes in town and often seemed busy before the pandemic. It had 15 employees in December, including two executives, according to staff.
Many baristas were in their twenties. Workers also prepared sandwiches, salads and other menu items. The place served alcohol and was open late into the night.
The cafe is owned by a company called DS Equities.
A lawyer for DS Equities and representatives from Great Lakes Coffee headquarters did not immediately respond to messages Tuesday afternoon.
Businessman Greg Miracle owns a coffee supply business, Coffee Creations, which roasts and delivers coffee to Great Lakes Coffee locations. He and his wife, Linda Miracle, have been the public faces of the Great Lakes Coffee brand.
In a March interview, the Miracles said they couldn’t afford everything the strikers demanded and claimed that including tips, some workers were earning between $17 and $23 an hour.
Midtown coffee worker Lex Blom, 28, who has backed the organizing effort, said the permanent closure is heartbreaking but will not stop workers’ efforts to unionize Great Lakes Coffee’s other five locations. .
Many former colleagues have found new jobs since the Midtown store closed in January, she said.
“There’s a lot of emotions flowing. There’s been sadness, there’s been anger, there’s been disbelief,” Blom said of the news of the permanent closure.
“It is heartbreaking to know that they would rather close the building itself than tell us about our union,” she added.
As for the claim that Great Lakes Coffee could not afford to meet workers’ demands, Blom said: “Generally, based on my personal beliefs, if a business cannot afford to meet the needs of an employee, she can’t afford the employee in the first place.
“And if you can’t afford your employees, you’re going to keep looking for new employees and having turnover.”