Welcome to another Coffee News Roundup. Let’s get to it.
‘A Labor of Love: Gimme! Coffee Becomes a Co-Op’ - via the Ithaca Voice
Gimme! Coffee, the Ithaca, New York-based coffee company whose workers formed what is believed to be the first ever barista union in 2018, has transitioned to a co-op model that allows employees to become owners of the business.
The Gimme! union “hangs on by a thread” after disruption caused by the pandemic and interpersonal conflict, the Ithaca Voice confirms. However, tepid interest in the union and major turnover in staff members has pushed the co-op model forward as a solution for workers to have a say in the direction of the business.
Colleen Anunu, interim CEO and new co-managing director, said that a union is still part of the plan after this transition: “We absolutely said, like, a co-op union model is what we’re going for here.”
Employees can become worker-owners of the co-op, with a full share costing $1,300 paid in $50 installments. Half of Gimme! Coffee’s staff have already committed to the model, which the board of directors hopes will allow them to start offering benefits such as 401k savings plans, as well as a generally more sustainable working environment with predictable schedules.
“With more employees being involved in decisions, I feel like we can make decisions that actually change our employee’s life rather than just creating more profit for someone who owns the business,” new board of directors president Kate Smith said.
‘Tim Hortons Offers a Free Coffee and Pastry for Spying on People for Over a Year’ - via Vice
Back in June came news that Tim Hortons, the Canadian coffee chain and cultural institution, spied on users of its app for over a year, collecting data on their movements even when the app wasn’t in use.
Now, in response to several class action lawsuits, the multinational coffee giant is offering affected customers… a free hot drink and pastry. Subject to court approval, this settlement will bring to an end the saga without Tim Hortons admitting wrongdoing, although the company will delete the offending data.
In a statement to Vice, Tim Horton’s said that “It’s important to emphasize that the allegations raised in the class actions were not proven in court and the settlement is not an admission of any wrongdoing.”
It’s not exactly the harsh financial punishment that Daniel Therrien, Privacy Commissioner of Canada, wanted at the time. “Federally, I do not have the authority to impose penalty—I hope that will change soon,” he told the Financial Post. “There should be financial penalties.”
I suppose a free hot beverage and pastry, with a retail value of $6.19 and $2.39 CAD plus taxes respectively, will have to do.
‘New Bill Could Allow Americans To Buy Coffee With Crypto Tax-Exempt’ - via Forbes
The crypto-coffee collision continues.
Currently, if you want to buy your coffee with a cryptocurrency (a more popular activity than you might imagine) you have to pay tax on that $5 outlay (or $500, -$50, $5,000, crypto is volatile is my point).
The way relevant taxes work at the moment, “if you used digital assets to purchase a cup of coffee, the individual would owe capital gains on the transaction if the digital asset appreciated in value—even if the asset appreciated by only a fraction of a penny.”
This bill, a bipartisan effort led by Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), essentially wants to raise the bottom limit of taxation on crypto transactions up to $50. They say the goal is to encourage more people to use crypto for everyday purchases, like coffee, and to protect people who already use it from surprise tax liabilities.
Lots of cryptocurrency platforms and lobby groups support the bill, for obvious reasons. “[The] legislation is forward-looking and focused on the utility of this new technology,” said Sheila Warren, Chief Executive Officer of the Crypto Council for Innovation. “With 1 in 5 Americans holding or using crypto, greater regulatory clarity will support the industry's next stage of growth.”
The Week in Coffee Unionizing
- Starbucks Workers United has struck a deal with Starbucks to ensure that employees at two Seattle locations due to close this week will be reassigned with no gap in their schedules, among other considerations. According to the Seattle Times, this marks the first time a deal has been negotiated between the union and the company. The closure of several stores across the country, some of which are unionized or in the process of unionizing, has been called out by organizers and experts as a form of union-busting.
- Starbucks Workers United and the Coworkers Solidarity Fund have set up a mutual aid fund to assist employees who have been affected by Starbucks’ anti-union activities. “Having this solidarity fund means that not only do we have solidarity amongst our communities but that we will be able to support ourselves while taking risks to stand up to this billion-dollar company that is infringing on our right to organize,” Alicia Humphrey, a barista from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, said in a statement.
- Heine Brothers’ Coffee Workers filed unfair labor practices charges against the company this week, in response to Heine Brothers’ Coffee closing stores, “interrogating and surveilling employees for union activity,” retaliating against employees, and discouraging union support by holding captive audience meetings. The company disputes these charges.
The Week in Corporate Coffeewashing
An article in Global Coffee Report about Nestlé’s new coffee factory in Veracruz, Mexico, spends most of its time discussing the sustainability credentials of this $340 million facility. The factory “leverages state-of-the-art equipment and green energies to reduce water and energy consumption,” not to mention that it “consumes 100 per cent green electricity and is equipped with a biomass boiler that will use the biological waste from the coffee process to generate energy.”
“At Nestlé, sustainability is a fundamental pillar of our purpose, and we are committed to taking actions that have a positive impact on our planet,” said Fausto Costa, Executive President of Nestlé Mexico. Meanwhile, as Mexico suffers a drought, big companies including Nestle continue to pump billions of liters of water from stressed aquifers, oftentimes selling it back to the people who can’t access clean water themselves.
The GCR article also trumpets the impact the facility will have on Mexican producers, with Andrés Manuel López Obrador, President of Mexico, saying that, “with the inauguration of this plant, Nestlé is supporting close to 100,000 coffee producers in Mexico.”
However, Reuters reports that this new facility will primarily use robusta coffee imported from Brazil, which produces orders of magnitude more robusta than Mexico.
Is Coffee Good For You?
This is a question that has plagued science (and this Roundup) for years. And the conclusion? We don’t know. Or at least, we don’t know enough to say for sure yet.
An article in The Conversation this week discusses the topic of coffee and health, and the contradictory conclusions that the research has arrived at over the decades.
“The dizzying swings in coffee’s health status highlight a fundamental challenge in modern science,” writes Thomas Merritt, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Laurentian University in Canada. “Research is an ongoing process, and our understanding of the world around us changes as we explore and learn. We question, examine and make decisions based on the best information we have. Those decisions can, and should, change as we get new information.”