Seattle Baristas Organize Protest of Caffe Vita

On Wednesday, October 2, a group of Seattle baristas organized a walkout and protest at Caffe Vita’s Capitol Hill location in response to a flurry of firings and resignations over the “sudden harsh enforcement of a company policy” in regard to giving homeless people old pastries and coffee.

The group, which has now organized as Coffee Riot, cites an email from Caffe Vita upper management that went out on September 6, stating, “feeding homeless people without comprehensive services actually enables, increases and promotes homelessness,” and that “giving away products is theft and the grounds for immediate employment termination.”

According to a former manager, however, the company never required baristas to track the amount of remaining drip coffee or pastries that were destined to be thrown away, and this practice had been going on for more than 10 years without cause for concern. In fact, The Stranger reported this week that Caffe Vita co-owner Liz McConnell admitted that the employee handbook “did not list protocols for waste coffee or pastry.”

In light of the protest and conversation surrounding the September email, Caffe Vita posted a statement on Instagram apologizing for its language about enabling homelessness, and are “assessing [its] policies and communications to ensure they reflect [the] company’s values and [its] community’s needs.”

On Monday, Coffee Riot took to their own Instagram to respond to Caffe Vita, saying, “While the work you have done for the community is immensely appreciated, we believe there is a call for action in the current situation with your current and former employees. We are willing to facilitate a dialogue regarding a proper and holistic response to the needs of the community….We would like to see more concrete language regarding company policies.”

Coffee Riot also calls to attention that “what is currently happening at Caffe Vita is not an isolated incident—this issue is industry-wide across the nation.”