All posts by The Trinity River Lookout

Silence from Management as Aura Boycott Begins in Earnest

The deadline for Aura Coffee management to meet with the Aura Boycott Committee (ABC) has come and gone, beginning the boycott in earnest June 10. The deadline was extended to management as a courtesy by the committee in order to address the grievances before direct community action was deployed by ABC.auracoffee3

The silence from management, a hallmark since the beginning of the boycott, has forced the hand of the community-run boycott committee. The boycott committee has 3 demands to better the lives of existing Aura employees:

1. A DEMOCRATIC WORKPLACE

All future firings are to be held to a vote within Aura, with all employees given a chance to voice grievances without fear of reprisal.

2. BETTER WAGES

Divide the wages from leaving employees to bring all remaining baristas closer to a living wage.

3. CAUSE FOR TERMINATION

All employees receive a cause for their termination.

 

Chris Dobbs, former Aura employee and member of the Aura Boycott Committee views the silence from management as, “a wish to be done with the entire social ramifications of how the event was handled by the owner, Kim, and the hope that time will just help folx forget it.”

Kell Ruiz, another member of ABC said, “The silence is an incompetent blunder. The purpose of this type of communication is to bring equity towards all parties involved… Simple and mending, by forcing the committee’s hand nothing will come out but more burnt bridges.”

Texas ranks 35th in worker protections, according to Oxfam, a global organization working to end the injustice of poverty. Workers do have access to the “Service Letter” law which means employers are supposed to legally have to give the reason for termination to the person terminated.

Hiding from social ramifications hasn’t worked as much as the community has been hiding from Aura. Some community members equate a drink at Aura as a slap in the face to workers. The lack of customers has shown the strength of just word-of-mouth of the boycott, the effect surely to be intensified since the 10-day deadline has come and gone.auracoffee2

 The firing, which happened the day before Pride Month, has prompted conversations of how LGBTQIA people are exposed by the lack of employment protections in the state. Maggie, who quit in solidarity with Chris weighed in on the intersection of labor and marginalization, “During Pride month we need to bear down on how folx in different marginalized groups can accidentally betray fellow laboring comrades by alliances of convenience with owner/operators who ultimately fall back on their will-to-power. We too quickly forget how queer issues and women’s issues and race issues ARE labor issues.” They concluded, “An unsafe intersection anywhere is unsafe intersections everywhere.”

The treatment which led to the boycott isn’t uncommon for businesses, which is why boycotts, strikes, and other worker solidarity measures are needed to create better working environments, according to Masood Raja, Associate Professor of English at the University of North Texas.

“We all are aware, if we care about it, that the current global economic system relies heavily on worker precarity. So, knowing this, people like us choose to go to places that claim to be progressive and are worker-centered. But when some of these places, that claim to be worker-friendly, use the corporate laws to fire their employees for no cause simply because it is legal to do so, then there is no qualitative difference between them and any other corporate business. That is why it is important for us to stand in solidarity with workers arbitrarily fired by these so-called progressive businesses.”

Raja, a 10-year daily regular at Aura/Big Mike’s, is supporting the community boycott.

Katie Krupala, an ABC member, has been going to Aura since it was Big Mike’s in 2014. Her feelings about the situation are strong despite her history with the shop, “Aura was really cool as a place. It was nice to be able to go somewhere and see friends and familiar faces,” she continued, “but, I won’t go back unless they make major changes and apologize.” She noted that Aura still has a chance to snap back from the boycott, “I would be impressed if Aura transformed into a democratic workplace with a living wage, and I would like to support that kind of thing.”

2020 Presidential Candidate Vermin Supreme, to attend North Texas Anarchist Book Fair

Organizers with the North Texas Anarchist Book Fair are proud to announce that this year’s fair will be joined by 2020 Presidential candidate, Vermin Supreme.

Supreme, who has ran for President since 2008, is considered by some a performance artist and activist. His attendance joins many local and national organizations set to attend this year’s book fair.

A Denton coffee house gets roasted for firing a worker

When Chris Dobbs walked into Aura Coffee Thursday, he didn’t expect to be let go without explanation. When Aura Coffee management woke up Friday, it didn’t expect to face the beginnings of a fierce community boycott.

Dobbs, the longest working employee at Aura Coffee (formerly Big Mike’s), and his partner Maggie are receiving massive amounts of community support, because of the bizarre and inexplicable firing from Aura management.

According to a statement by Chris,

I was let-go without due warning after being added to the summer schedule without any reason for termination honestly given. I have been vocal about my worldviews when it comes to labor, and I’ll stand by them.”

Maggie, quit in solidarity with the bizarre decision by management. A statement on their Facebook reads,

I appreciate everyone’s support on Chris being dismissed and me quitting in solidarity from that coffee shop. Why did I quit? Because it was my husband? No. Because it was my best friend? No. Why did I ask that there be a boycott—for either of those reasons? No.  Rather, I quit in solidarity with him and EVERYONE WORKING THERE. It is a HORRIBLE precedent to set for the owner/manager to walk in and fire someone without a provided cause. Unlike any other employee ever let go from that establishment, he was given no real reason other than “I’m done.”

The silence from management led to speculation by customers and community members as to why an employee who had become an institution at the coffee house had been let go. Due to recent renovations, Aura was described as having a “noxious paint smell,” which led to many customers taking their coffee to-go, or avoiding the store altogether. The employees, which didn’t have that option resorted to breaking health codes by propping open doors to allow fresh air to flow through their workplace.

Others contend that since Dobbs and Maggie are active members of the LGBTQ community and supporters of workers rights that Aura dismissed him based on this.

This speculation has been outright denied by both Chris and Maggie. [editor TRL, change made 2019/6/1 7:45CST]

Some claim that the decision was based as a cost-saving measure. When Aura’s predecessor, Big Mikes, first opened; every person hired there made $10 per hour. Since new management took over, all the new hires make between eight and nine dollars an hour and considerable raises had been virtually eliminated.

The only statement released (which has been deleted) by Aura management has been a post onto the Barista Guild of North Texas facebook page, it reads:

aura1

A member of the group, Adam Mahout, posted in response:

This post seems unethical and unprofessional. Because you have the right to fire employees without due notice does not mean the employee doesn’t have the right to be angry and inform the clientele that he has helped create at the Big Mike’s/Aura location (longer that you’ve owned the location) that he feels wronged, and that this ‘good business decision’ is not an ethical decision or a choice for workers.”

The clear attempts of blacklisting Chris has led many community members to encourage him to seek legal counsel.

The boycott committee has decided to lead by example and centered their 3 demands to better the lives of existing Aura employees:

1. All future firings are to be held to a vote within Aura, with all employees given a chance to voice grievances without fear of reprisal.

2. Dividing among all the remaining baristas the wages saved from firing Dobbs and Maggie quitting to get their colleagues closer to a living minimum wage.

3. That management provide a detailed written statement outlining the supposed cause for termination to be provided to Chris within ten days of receiving this demand.

The silence coming from Aura management hints that they are going for the “If we ignore them they’ll go away” strategy.