Coffee News Roundup: Week Ending July 15th

A diner mug rests on a newspaper atop a wooden table.

It’s time for another Coffee News Roundup. Ready? Let’s go.

Starbucks Is Closing 16 Locations Due to Safety Concerns, Including 2 Unionized Stores - via Food & Wine

16 Starbucks locations across a number of large US cities will be shut down, the company announced this week—two of which have already voted to unionize, and another of which has petitioned for a vote.

Citing safety concerns—the article notes that the closures are ”primarily over complaints tied to drug use and other reported incidents”—the company said six stores in both Seattle and LA, two in Portland, one in Philadelphia and one in Washington DC will be permanently closed.

As Food & Wine notes, back in 2018 Starbucks instituted an open bathroom policy in an attempt to “make Starbucks more inclusive”, but a year later had to install needle disposal boxes in a few stores in response to employees allegedly being stabbed with needles while cleaning, and then just last month Howard Schultz (who had launched the open bathrooms policy during his previous tenure as CEO) toyed with the idea of reversing the policy “due to a growing mental health problem that makes store management challenging,” according to Business Insider.

Unsurprisingly, the timing has not been missed by Starbucks Workers United, the union behind the country-wide organizing drive. "Starbucks claims that they are closing the stores because they are 'unsafe,' yet, the closing of the popular college town store in Ithaca, NY, followed a strike over unsafe conditions,” the union told Food & Wine. “Starbucks' response was not to fix the problem but to punish the workers who had recently unionized."

Last week, nine employees in Colorado who were fired soon after their stores voted to unionize claimed their dismissals were in retaliation for their organizing work.

Starbucks says some of the issues raised over safety came from employees themselves, and claims that the company opens and closes stores all the time “as a standard part of our business operations.” The spokesperson also said that the company has been actively attempting to fix the stores for up to a year.

Workers at one of the closing stores, the Portland location that is awaiting its union election, dispute this. “It is clear to anyone that has worked at Starbucks that the company doesn’t prioritize our safety until it behooves them,” the store’s organizers said in a statement.

Read the full story here.

Republic of Madagascar Minister Confirms Commitment to Sign ICA 2022 - via Global Coffee Report

Even as countries continue to leave the International Coffee Agreement—most recently Uganda this year and Guatemala in 2020—there are some for whom the agreement still holds promise. The Republic of Madagascar is one of these, with its Minister of Foreign Affairs announcing that the country will sign the ICA 2022 once it opens for signatures in October.

The ICA is an international commodity agreement between countries that grow and export coffee and those that import and consume it. The upcoming iteration will “embrace” the private sector, and Madagascar is anticipating being involved in the Coffee Public-Private Task Force (CPPTF).

“I am looking forward to concretising what we have discussed, especially regarding the ambition to have Madagascar as a future country of implementation of the CPPTF’s pilot projects,” said Foreign Affairs minister Richard Randriamandrato after meeting with Vanusia Nogueira, Executive Director of the International Coffee Organization (ICO).

Madagascar is the world’s 23rd largest coffee producer, with 90% of its production being robusta, and a significant portion is consumed domestically. According to Global Coffee Report, “the country’s success with other high-value crops such as vanilla has created optimism that Arabica coffee cultivation will increase in the future, promoting the specialty coffee market.”

Whether the ICA’s public-private love-in will actually end up benefiting producing countries remains to be seen, but as Daily Coffee News’ article on the new agreement put it, the move “comes at a time when, despite sweeping economic and social sustainability claims among most of the world’s largest private-sector coffee companies, poverty, food insecurity, environmental degradation and a host of other factors continue to affect coffee farmers all over the world.”

Read the full story here.

Please Take the COVID-19 Sensory Survey for Coffee Professionals - via Daily Coffee News

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted the coffee industry in a myriad ways (ditto every other industry too, of course, but we’re here to talk about coffee).

There are the issues of supply chain malfunction, business closures, and—most importantly—loss of life and livelihoods, but something worth considering for a minute is the effect of the disease on our senses.

Loss of taste and/or smell has been one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19, and such loss can significantly impact the ability of a coffee professional to do their job on a day-to-day basis. Daily Coffee News is now trying to gather information about industry members’ experiences with these symptoms and how it has affected their work.

If that’s you, and you have a couple of minutes to fill in their anonymous survey, please do so below.

Take the survey here.

A person sitting on a park bench reads a newspaper. via Wikimedia Commons

More Headlines

25 Winners Named in the 2022 Honduras Cup of Excellence Coffee Competition

World Of Coffee & Three World Coffee Championships Head To Taiwan In 2023

La Marzocco Gives New Life to a Legend with the Linea Classic S

Algrano Launches Suite of Tools Designed to Improve Sales for Producers

Coffee Chains Brace for their Latest Challenge—Inflation

The Week in Coffee Unionizing

  • Starbucks Workers United filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in response to the company announcing the closing of 16 stores due to what it says are safety concerns. The union alleges that the closures are a form of union-busting, amounting to “retaliation and illegal coercion against union activity” according to In These Times.
  • The group of striking Great Lakes Coffee baristas in Detroit have now been picketing for over 130 days as they attempt to certify their union election. After the Great Lakes location where many of them worked shut down, the strike moved to a satellite location inside a grocery store, which organizers say is being staffed with scab workers.
  • Although a union drive at a Starbucks location in Calgary, Alberta, failed back in April, another one at a different store in the same city has succeeded, becoming the first in the state to unionize. "It's great to see workers coming together to demand better workplaces and we look forward to assisting them to be heard and garner the respect they deserve from Starbucks," said Scott Lunny, United Steel Workers director for Western Canada.

Is Coffee Good For You?

No new studies this week, but a New York Times article on how to stay hydrated during a heatwave has some info regarding coffee (it’s generally fine unless you’re caffeine-sensitive) but also has other good advice for dealing with the hot temperatures that are currently gripping much of the world.

What To Read

On The Front Lines: Mask-Based Harassment in the Cafe by RJ Joseph

The Strange, Symbiotic, Political Relationship of Two Amarillo Coffee Shops by Claudia Kolker

Until next week, drink good coffee—and stay cool.

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