Rep. Tlaib tells striking Great Lakes Coffee workers they deserve better

Feb 23, 2022 at 3:07 pm
click to enlarge U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib speaks at a rally for Great Lakes Roasting Co. in Detroit on Wednesday. To her left is barista Lea Green. - Steve Neavling
Steve Neavling
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib speaks at a rally for Great Lakes Roasting Co. in Detroit on Wednesday. To her left is barista Lea Green.

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib joined more than 200 people who rallied in support of striking Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Co. workers in Detroit on Wednesday, telling the baristas and cooks they deserve better pay and work conditions.

“None of my residents should have to struggle this much. It shouldn’t be this hard,” Tlaib said outside Meijer’s Rivertown Market store on East Jefferson Avenue, where one of Great Lakes Coffee’s stores is located. “It shouldn’t be this hard to ask for basic dignity and basic needs to survive.”

About 20 baristas have been on strike for a week and are demanding a fair contract that includes union representation; a starting wage of at least $15 per hour; COVID-19 protocols; anti-harassment and anti-discrimination protections; affordable health, dental, and vision insurance; and paid time off, including sick days and parental leave.

Employees and their supporters rallied for the second time in less than a week.

The strike follows similar actions by Starbucks employees who are trying to unionize nationwide, including workers at multiple Starbucks locations in Michigan.

“Your union brothers and sisters across the state are standing with you,” Tlaib said. “I want all the workers to know: It’s not just me as a member of Congress, there are people behind you. It’s inspiring a movement across the country to be able to say we need human dignity in the workplace, and that pathway is forming a union.”

Lea Green, who works at Great Lakes Coffee for $10 an hour, said she loves her job and just wants fair wages and decent working conditions.

“I love making coffee,” Green said. “I put my heart and soul into every pour. I love my customers. I love making them their favorite drinks. I believe I should be able to be in a job that I love and be treated fairly.”

Her co-worker Lauren Delbeke said she and the other employees are standing up together for what’s right.

“I have never gotten paid what I am worth, so we are out here striking today for hopefully for the good of all the baristas,” Delbeke said.

In January, Great Lakes Coffee’s shop in Midtown closed after employees said a lack of COVID-19 protocols led to an outbreak of the virus. About nine workers and managers were infected.

Employees said management has ignored their requests to create a safer working environment for workers and customers.

Ron Bieber, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, pledged to stand with the baristas and cooks until their demands are met.

“It’s solidarity and it means this: We are going to have each other’s back, and whenever workers stand together, they stand together in solidarity, knowing that if you stand up together and fight together and have each other’s back, you’re going to win,” Bieber said. “And you are going to win. We are going to be with you for however long its going to take.”

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