Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Underemployed People Fight For Their Rights!

Brooklyn, NY.
Underemployedees of South Slope coffee hotspot Gorilla Coffee walked out en masse, forcing the cafe to close it's doors. (Here are links to the stories as told by Eater and Diner's Journal) This isn't a strike. These baristas quit for good, taking the whole business down with them in a smokeless blaze of glory.

Despite their claims that this isn't political, these incensed caffeine slingers have fundamentally challenged restaurant management as it functions today. Given the bs that everyone who works in the industry puts up with on a daily basis, I can't imagine how bad it must have been in order for the employees to stop showing up. Restaurants notoriously care far more about health code than fair labor practices. You want your legally required 20 minute lunch break? As if it would occur to you to ask. Breaks every couple of hours? If you can take that many breaks, make yourself look busy so you don't get cut. The restaurant industry works its employees hard because that's how the flow of service customers so dearly care about remains smooth and steady. It isn't right, it isn't legal, but it is industry standard. Seriously, working there must have really sucked. But if it could happen at a beloved, money-making neighborhood institution, it could most certainly happen elsewhere.

To walk away from any job right now is more of a gamble than ever. Going rate for highly skilled baristas like me and the ones at Gorilla Coffee is hovering around $7.75-$9.00 an hour plus tips. Not a lot, but more than a guaranteed nothing from not showing up to work. But there's hope for these trained and newly unemployed workers: My compulsive Craigslist searching revealed that there is already a demand for ex-gorillas at a new East Village coffee shop.

I sincerely believe these baristas are fighting the good fight. Restaurateurs, take note and beware.

One does not make revolutions by halves.
-Louis de Saint-Just, The French Revolution's "Archangel of Terror"


  1. Actually I think they liked working there, it was a nice place with great music and the baristas had a lot of say in the vibe and atmosphere. It was just the one bossy cunt they couldn't deal with. The fact that management allowed the store to shut down rather than deign to pull espresso themselves for a few days while they rehired tells you everything you need to know.

  2. mrblifil,

    You're probably right. From my own experiences, the vibe in Gorilla Coffee was always pretty upbeat. But everybody has limits, particularly while working a deceptively grueling job for an unglamorously sized paycheck. The crap this co-owner must have been shilling in order to motivate her entire staff to quit is really unfathomable to me.

  3. Another coffee shop in Brooklyn is hoping to snag these espresso-pulling trail blazers!