Gorilla Coffee, in Brooklyn, is a well-known local favorite but apparently it’s a lot more fun to drink the coffee than it is to work there. It’s so unpleasant, in fact, that even considering the current economic climate, the entire staff simultaneously quit — forcing the coffee shop to close. The staff sent out an email to the media claiming that it’s not a strike — the “staff quit and the matter will not be resolved.”
At issue was a work environment described by the staff as “perpetually malicious, hostile, and demeaning.”
The NYT got a hold of the owners– who say the mass quitting was unexpected.
“It’s a complete surprise,” Darleen Scherer, one of the owners, said over the phone. “They made an unreasonable request, and then they didn’t have any way to go but out.”
That request was apparently tied to another co-owner who is responsible for training employees. The staff was apparently no longer willing to work with her.
“The training to be a barista is rigorous,” one of the owners told the NYT, “and she’s like a drill sergeant. She trains somebody and they become good, and then they become great, and then they become excellent. I don’t understand the perceived hostility. Everybody has a different learning curve and she respects that.”
Here’s the staff e-mail:
We the workers would have preferred to keep this between the people involved, thus our silence towards the press. However, we do feel it is important to clarify the situation for the friends and patrons of Gorilla Coffee. The issues brought up with the owners of Gorilla Coffee yesterday are issues that they have been aware of for some time. These issues which have repeatedly been brushed aside and ignored have created a perpetually malicious, hostile, and demeaning work environment that was not only unhealthy, but also, as our actions have clearly shown, unworkable.
Several staff left not only recently, but also in the past few years due to these issues. The staff was recently told that the business partner to whom these issues have been repeatedly attributed was no longer affiliated with the business, and the environment was going to change. For 6 weeks nothing was seen nor heard of this business partner. This separation changed the dynamic of the business so drastically one of the departed staff quit their other job to return with the understanding these changes were permanent, and those who had tendered their resignation, or were drafting it, decided to stay. When the business partner returned without explanation, staff approached the owner hoping to find out the reason for this sudden and unannounced return. Work environment and workplace issues aside, the workers collectively felt deceived and that they had been shown a lack of mutual respect. This only served to highlight and reemphasize the previously expressed concerns. As the staff was well aware, both through experience and through conversation with past employees, Gorilla Coffee has a history of this pattern repeating itself.
It should be emphasized that the intent of the meeting was above all to find a solution to this unhealthy situation, a solution which involved the maintenance of these improvements to the work environment, and that would prevent any future returns to the previous unhealthy dynamic. Above all the attitude of the staff involved in the meeting (who were representing the rest of the staff) was one of respect and positivity. A collective instant resignation was an agreed upon last resort and not a bargaining chip. It was simply that without change, we all felt unwilling to undergo another day in that environment. Hence, out of a collective feeling of self respect and job insecurity, the staff decided it would be in their best interest to find employment elsewhere.
This isn’t political and it isn’t a strike. The staff quit and the matter will not be resolved. It’s a matter of business, and a personal matter for each of the staff. Everyone at Gorilla Coffee, including the owners and the staff, are skilled, passionate, and hard working. It is unfortunate for everyone involved. The workers are grateful to the many wonderful patrons over the years, and we apologize that it was necessary to inconvenience them in this way. All we can say is “thank you for the support and all the best.”
The workers of Gorilla Coffee