Via Infoshop News
Jeff Bauer, with the help of the I.W.W. and the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, voiced his demands.
By Paulina Reso
A brisk wind carried chants and cheers down Seventh Avenue yesterday afternoon. Outside of Ozzie’s Coffee and Tea, enthused dancers shook vibrant banners. A motley 10-piece band blared.
What could easily have been mistaken for a celebration was in fact a protest of what one former employee considers his illegal termination.
Jeff Bauer, 41, a barista at Ozzie’s for nearly a year, believes he was fired because of his affiliation with Industrial Workers of the World. The IWW is an international union that believes all workers should be united and the wage system must be abolished. He has been arguing his case since July.
In December, the National Labor Relations Board backed Bauer and issued a complaint against the Park Slope café.
Now with a trial slated for Feb. 8, Bauer hopes to regain his job, along with seven months’ lost wages, overtime and tips.
“It’s my right. It’s my job and it was taken from me,” Bauer said.
With support from the IWW, Bauer held the event to preach about unfair working conditions while putting pressure on the coffeehouse.
A small crowd, many of them holding white coffee cups, observed the fanfare. Some were disinterested, a few amused, and others, passing through, were merely annoyed by the added challenge of traversing a snow-clogged sidewalk.
“It’s surprising. The people who work there seem so happy,” said Laura Johnson, 33. “It’s too bad, but it’s not going to effect my going there.”
One man wearing a black sweatshirt, emblazoned with the red IWW logo, danced excitedly, kicking up snow with his Timberland boots. He only stopped in order to distribute flyers and chat with bystanders.
After the band played a few songs (including Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”), Bauer made a speech.
“I think what hurts the most in all of this is that [Ozzie’s] has been willing to stoop so low that they would rather spread lies about the quality of my labor and assassinate my character than do the right thing and reinstate me,” said Bauer.
While some bystanders were persuaded by Bauer’s story (one woman said she would not return to Ozzie’s), others were skeptical.
“I’ve never had an issue with Ozzie’s,” said Richard Spetell, 42, an Ozzie’s customer for 15 years. “It’s important to support small businesses. When I walked by, I thought, ‘I’m going to go in to buy a cookie.’”
Last month, Ozzie’s manager Raphael Bernadine told Patch that Bauer’s accusations are entirely false.
“Nobody knew he was in a union. I can swear to that,” Bernadine said, explaining that Bauer was simply fired for not doing his job.
With a trial on the calendar, this coffee war may be over.
Bauer is confident that he will win, citing the I.W.W.’s recent victory over Starbucks Coffee, which now must pay employees time-and-a-half on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
“If we can make a multi-billion dollar corporate coffee chain cave, then we can literally crush Ozzie’s,” Bauer said.