My post about Cornell students complaining about $5 on-campus coffee prices elicited a strong readership response, Cornell on-campus cafe raises prices after state-mandated minimum wage hike:

I make instant coffee in my office rather than pay the exorbitant coffee prices in local cafes. (I’m also too lazy to walk to get coffee in the faculty lounge, which is of questionable quality anyway.)

But then again, I’m not as rich as many of the students, who think nothing of dropping $4 on a latte, because they don’t actually “pay” for it, they just show a barcode on their phone and presto, it gets charged to someone somewhere (probably parents)….

The only way I’m getting a $5 coffee at Cafe Zeus is if someone else is paying. Like a visiting Legal Insurrection reader.

Turns out that in Ithaca, $5 coffee may be the ‘good old days,’ as baristas at one of the leading coffee chains, Gimme Coffee, have unionized.

I last wrote about Gimme Coffee in 2013, Gimme a fracking break:

Gimme Coffee is an Ithaca coffee roaster and something of an institution.  For a mere $4 or thereabouts, you can have quite a good latte.  The coffee happens to be excellent, but it comes with a heavy dollop of liberal political agenda on top.

A reader forwards this image he saw on Facebook and comments:

You’ve probably seen this, but just in case . . .

This photo was posted to Facebook, proudly displaying a bag of ‘Fracktivist‘ coffee on sale by Gimme Coffee.

Fracktivist - small

How insufferably self-righteous.

How proud she is, in an ignorant, small way, to contribute to the continued economic depression wracking upstate New York, all the while keeping America dependent on the fossil-fuel friends of Al Gore.

Student journalist Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, who is destined for journalistic greatness (you heard it here first), writes at The Cornell Daily Sun, Gimme Coffee Baristas Ratify First Union Contract, Boosting Wages With Management Support:

Baristas at four Gimme Coffee shops in Tompkins County — members of what may be the only recognized barista union in the country — have voted to ratify their first union contract with the coffee shop’s management.

The union, Workers United 2833, formed last May and includes all baristas at the Upstate New York cafes. Its members voted unanimously, 22 to 0, on Dec. 31 to ratify a three-year contract that includes wage increases and the establishment of a paid sick day program, according to a joint statement from baristas and Gimme management released by the Tompkins County Workers’ Center on Wednesday.

Baristas at Gimme’s original shops on State and Cayuga streets in the City of Ithaca, which opened in 2000 and 2001, are covered by the union, as are baristas at Cornell’s Gates Hall and at Gimme in Trumansburg. The union does not include baristas at the coffee franchise’s three New York City locations.

The willingness of the owner to hand over control to a union was perhaps the most startling aspect of the deal, which includes a wage renegotiation:

… the union inserted a planned renegotiation of wages into the contract as a condition of agreeing to the management’s wage proposal, which the union found unsatisfactory. The union and management will negotiate wages in December of this year, per the contract, but the rest of the contract is valid for three years, Mason said.

While negotiations between baristas and management have hit some bumps, the union effort is unique in that it has not been publicly opposed or hindered by the company, as with other unsuccessful union attempts at Starbucks and elsewhere.

“I’m a proponent of people coming together to build a better world, and I look forward to working with the union toward the advancement of the company mission,” Kevin Cuddeback, owner and CEO of Gimme Coffee, said in a statement.

Ithaca.com reports how control over the business was critical to the baristas:

Gimme! Coffee barista Samantha Mason stated that the contract was part of the benefits of unionizing, but beyond that she was glad to some more equity return to the workers-management dynamic.

“For me, the most integral part of this has been to see how far my co-workers and I have come in building solidarity, in rebalancing power and having the courage to take action and create a better workplace,” Mason said. “It’s important to me that all workers understand that they can change their workplace.”

The Tompkins County Workers Center, which supported the union effort, points to the following highlights of the new contract:

  • A union “just cause” clause that protects workers from unfair discipline or discharge;
  • A union grievance and arbitration procedure to resolve any workplace problems;
  • Wage increases;
  • Establishment of a paid sick day program;
  • Monthly joint labor/management meetings.

The prices at Gimme Coffee already are not cheap. The menu from a Brooklyn location of Gimme Coffee, posted online at a Yelp review (see featured image), shows prices approaching $5 for lattes and similar drinks. That comports with my memory the last time I wrote about Gimme Coffee

Will $5 coffee be the ‘good old days’ after union wages and benefits kick in? Gimme Coffee did not respond to an email inquiring whether price increases are expected in light of the unionization.