Submitted on Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:30am
On June 29th, 2010 Park Slope, Brooklyn-based independent coffee shop Ozzie's Coffee & Tea fired IWW union barista Jeff Bauer for engaging in legally protected union activity. The NYC branch of the IWW has been engaged in a fight for justice for Fellow Worker Bauer, both through Direct Action and filing multiple Unfair Labor Practices (ULPs) with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
FW Jeff Bauer worked at Ozzie's for over a year. He is a hard worker with a strong work ethic. The quality of his labor was never questioned before his IWW union affiliation was leaked to management. In fact, FW Bauer was offered the General Store Manager position before it was given to Rafael Bernadine. Jeff turned down the management position on principle, as it went against his political beliefs as both an anarchist and a wobbly. “I do not want to have authority over other people’s lives any more than I want people to have authority over my life,” recalls Jeff as to why he turned down the much higher paying position.
Jeff was often praised by management and coworkers for how hard he worked until word got out that he helped book a benefit for the NYC branch of the IWW on May Day of 2010. When management was made aware Jeff Bauer was organizing with the One Big Union their response was harsh. Jeff was subjected to mistreatment, harassment and verbal abuse at the hands of the General Store Manager, Raphael Bernadine.
FW Bauer came under extreme scrutiny, was demoted as a key-holder and suffered a severe cut in hours when he stood up for a coworker. The coworker had been physically assaulted and threatened by the General Store Manager's boyfriend on the shop floor. Along with the demotion and slashed hours (from over 40 to below 20), FW Bauer was written up in what management termed “a first and final warning.” The warning was for discussing workplace conditions, which is protected concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). In response FW Bauer led a legally protected union delegation of six people into the store to demand his hours back, his warning be retracted in writing, and for General Store Manager Raphael Bernadine to be reprimanded for his mistreatment of workers. The other purpose of this March on the Boss was to officially inform Ozzie’s Coffee and Tea of Jeff Bauer’s IWW union affiliation.
Management’s response was one of further retaliation. After Ozzie's co-owner Melissa Azulai received the demand letter, Jeff Bauer was immediately removed from the schedule and then terminated days later. After Jeff was removed from the schedule, he placed several unreturned calls to Ms. Azulai, who never informed Jeff personally, that he was fired. He had to find out from his friend, comrade and legal advisor Daniel Gross.
In a related note, Daniel Gross, along with legendary First Amendment litigator Martin Garbus, is currently defending the former workers of another well-known Park Slope coffee establishment, Gorilla Coffee. The gourmet, fair-trade coffee shop was shuttered for over two weeks after the entire staff resigned en masse last April over the heavy-handed management style of operations director Carol McLaughlin. The former workers of Gorilla Coffee are being slapped with a retaliatory, anti-speech lawsuit for speaking out about the “perpetually malicious, hostile, and demeaning work environment” at Gorilla Coffee. In a similar move, Ozzie’s Coffee and Tea’s law firm, Livoti, Bernstein & Moraco has threatened the General Headquarters of the IWW with a frivolous anti-speech lawsuit designed to make us cease and desist from engaging in the time-tested tactic of phone call-in actions. We doubt that either Ozzie’s Coffee and Tea, or their corporate lawyers, are familiar with the IWW’s long history of engaging in Free Speech Fights or they would have picked their battles a little more carefully. The IWW fights to win.
Fellow Workers are encouraged to call Ozzie’s Coffee and Tea to demand that Jeff Bauer be reinstated immediately. Ask for Melissa Azulai or Raphael Bernadine. (718)398-6695.