Seattle’s Slate Coffee Might Not Be Able to Wipe this Mess Clean

Letters taped to the Ballard location’s front door. Photos: CoffeeatLarge

Instead of ordering their usual Saturday morning beverage, customers of Slate Coffee Roasters’ Ballard location on June 22 found several letters posted to the front door.

The letters were posted by employees who chose to resign and walk out of the shop due to “a toxic work environment: this includes but is not limited to dishonesty; discrimination of many kinds; bullying and intimidation; late and unrecieved [sic] pay; disingenuous promises and so much more,” according to the letter posted. Ballard shop employees were also joined by several other Slate Coffee employees who work at the company’s other locations in solidarity with their colleagues in asking for honest communication, fair and timely compensation, and a safe working environment.

As part of the walkout, the Instagram account @CoffeeatLarge was created as a way for current and former employees to share their experiences of working for Slate in their own words. Former employees describe not receiving paychecks on time and having to repeatedly ask management for compensation, racist and homophobic remarks from management, and habitual understaffing. At the time of writing this, the account stands at more than 5,500 followers. Now, dozens of notable coffee accounts have shared or changed their profile picture to an illustration from @CoffeeatLarge to spread the word about the Slate employees’ efforts to organize as a group and demand better from their employer.

Lisanne and Keenan Walker, joint owners of Slate Coffee Roasters, posted a note to the company’s own Instagram feed in response to the allegations.

This is only the latest incident in the growing movement across the country as baristas demand employees treat them as specialized technicians, rather than dispensable low-skill workers. From Mighty Good Coffee’s recent protest in Ann Arbor to Gimme! Coffee’s first-ever barista workers union in New York state, baristas are consolidating their power and demanding better work conditions.

This is a developing story and Fresh Cup will cover events as they unfold.