Augie’s Coffee Announces Closing & Layoffs, Union Files Charge

Augie’s Union Logo: @hammer_of_the_wimpes

After announcing the closure of all its locations, Augie’s Coffee in southern California also indefinitely laid off all its workers.

Last month before this announcement, a group of Augie’s baristas notified the company that they intended to unionize and asked for recognition by Augie’s. About 40 workers signed a union letter addressed to management. 

A staff meeting was held afterward with many employees supporting the union, according to reporting by Sprudge. Owner Austin Amento “closed the meeting by stating that he needed to research unions and that he’d get back to us,” says Augie’s Union member Sean McLeod in an Instagram post. Afterward, on Saturday, July 4, Augie’s in turn announced its closure and its employee layoff, citing COVID-19.

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Augie’s Coffee laid off every employee and closed all locations as a transparent, immoral, and ILLEGAL form of UNION BUSTING. You might be wondering which union I’m talking about. About a week and a half ago, 70% of Augie’s employees signed on to the newly established Augie’s Union. As soon as the owners, Austin and Andy Amento, found out, they called in the managers of the 5 shops and spoke to them individually, asking if they were for the union (which is illegal to ask). They even demoted Josh, the manager of Riverside Main St, for his pro-union stance (again, illegal). The owners then called a town hall-style meeting on June 26th to hear employee grievances. At this meeting the majority of the employees expressed their support for the union and their reasons for doing so. After all voices had been heard, Austin closed the meeting by stating that he needed to research unions and that he’d get back to us soon. We were asking him to voluntarily recognize the union rather than go to the trouble of having a company-wide election held by the National Labor Relations Board. Since that meeting, Austin has continually refused to meet with the union organizers despite our continued good-faith attempts to engage in open conversation. EVERY SINGLE MEMBER OF THE UNION BELIEVES THIS WILL BE GOOD FOR BOTH THE BARISTAS AND FOR AUGIE’S COFFEE AS A BUSINESS. But the Amentos refuse to even listen. Now they have laid off all employees and closed all locations. They claim that this is due to COVID-19, but that is a lie. An outright lie. This is a union-busting technique. So many of their baristas signed up for the union that if they fired only the unionized baristas, they still wouldn’t be able to keep a single shop open. Our good-faith attempts to achieve worker dignity, restore worker morale, improve the company’s external image and internal workings, have been met with a childish tantrum. PLEASE, if you support Augie’s baristas, the people you see everyday, tell the Amentos to stop this. This is far worse for even just the Amentos than recognizing the union would have been. #augies #augiescoffee #augiesunion #augiesunionbusters

A post shared by Sean McLeod (@hammer_of_the_wimpes) on

Over the weekend, more than one hundred people gathered outside the Augie’s Coffee location on State Street in Redlands in protest, with Augie’s Union expressing they felt that the employers laid off employees “in order to discourage union activities and/or membership,” according to Redlands Daily Facts.

An unfair labor practice charge was filed with the National Labor Relations Board, according to union representative Mark Meinster with United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America, on Monday, July 6.

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe for laid off employees has reached over 340 donors and has raised $16,500.