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Former Ozzie’s Barista Settles for $15,500

By Kristin V Brown - Park Slope Patch, April 3, 2011 - Reposted in accordance with Fair Use Guidelines.

Last month a former Ozzie's employee settled a suit alleging that the local shop discriminated against his union involvement.

A former Ozzie’s barista settled for $15,500 last month after the National Labor Relations Board filed suit against the local java joint, claiming it discriminated against the barista for his union affiliations.

Jeff Baurer, 41, claimed that the coffee shop unfairly terminated him for his affiliation with Industrial Workers of the World (also known as the Wobblies), an international union that believes all workers should be united and the wage system must be abolished.

“I can move on with my life knowing that at least one boss will think twice before interfering with a worker's right to organize for dignity and respect in the workplace,” said Bauer.

Bauer claimed that before his termination last June from the Seventh Avenue and Lincoln Place shop, he was constantly praised by management as a model employee and even offered the manager position. Then his employers’ sentiments quickly changed.

“Ozzie's violated my legally protected right to join and/or form a union in the workplace,” said Bauer, who worked at the spot for nearly a year. “They harassed me, retaliated against me, reduced my hours, demoted me and terminated me for engaging in protected concerted activity.”

The former barista believes that someone leaked his affiliation to management when he was organizing a May Day benefit for the IWW.

But Bauer said his troubles really began after he told about a hostile confrontation he witnessed between a co-worker and his manager’s boyfriend. The incident led to a confrontation between Bauer and store manager Raphael Bernadine.

After that, Bauer claimed his hours were slashed in half. He led a union delegation into Ozzie's with six other union members to deliver a demand letter, asking for the return to his original 40 plus hours among other requests. He was officially terminated shortly after, on June 29.

Bernadine has told Patch in the past that Bauer was neglecting simple duties, such as making coffee correctly and keeping the store clean. As for the incident leading up to Bauer's termination, the store manager said it never took place.

Bauer, along with other IWW members, organized pickets and call-ins to ask the store to give the barista his job back. In December, the NLRB decided to issue a complaint against the coffee shop on behalf of Bauer.

In addition to the $15,500 payment to Bauer, Ozzie’s is required to post a notice in the store, which states, among other things, the Industrial Workers of the World, or any other labor organization, is protected and that Ozzie's cannot discharge, issue warnings to, reduce the work hours or discriminate against employees for union activities.

“That makes me feel vindicated, since they did in fact do all of those things to me in an effort to squash a union drive,” said Bauer. After a year of legal battles against his employer, Bauer declined to take his job back and instead now works as a janitor.

Ozzie’s declined to comment on the settlement agreement and the coffee shop’s lawyer did not return a request for comment.

“This settlement means more than just making me whole monetarily, it represents what can be achieved when workers formulate a plan and see it through,” Bauer said. “All over the country, from Wisconsin to New York City, the worker's right to organize is under attack and its time for us to take a stand and fight back."