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.
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.
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.”