In their own words: Here’s why the staff quit

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Here’s the full text of the e-mail that the “workers” of Gorilla Coffee, a Fifth Avenue java joint, sent out on Sunday. It may rank as one of the classic workplace gripes in the annals of labor-management relations:

We, the workers, would have preferred to keep this between the people involved, thus our silence towards the press. However, we do feel it is important to clarify the situation for the friends and patrons of Gorilla Coffee. The issues brought up with the owners of Gorilla Coffee yesterday are issues that they have been aware of for some time. These issues which have repeatedly been brushed aside and ignored have created a perpetually malicious, hostile, and demeaning work environment that was not only unhealthy, but also, as our actions have clearly shown, unworkable.

Several staff left not only recently, but also in the past few years due to these issues. The staff was recently told that the business partner to whom these issues have been repeatedly attributed was no longer affiliated with the business, and the environment was going to change. For six weeks nothing was seen nor heard of this business partner. This separation changed the dynamic of the business so drastically one of the departed staff quit their other job to return with the understanding these changes were permanent, and those who had tendered their resignation, or were drafting it, decided to stay.

When the business partner returned without explanation, staff approached the owner hoping to find out the reason for this sudden and unannounced return. Work environment and workplace issues aside, the workers collectively felt deceived and that they had been shown a lack of mutual respect. This only served to highlight and reemphasize the previously expressed concerns. As the staff was well aware, both through experience and through conversation with past employees, Gorilla Coffee has a history of this pattern repeating itself.

It should be emphasized that the intent of the meeting was, above all, to find a solution to this unhealthy situation, a solution which involved the maintenance of these improvements to the work environment, and that would prevent any future returns to the previous unhealthy dynamic. Above all, the attitude of the staff involved in the meeting (who were representing the rest of the staff) was one of respect and positivity. A collective instant resignation was an agreed upon last resort and not a bargaining chip. It was simply that without change, we all felt unwilling to undergo another day in that environment. Hence, out of a collective feeling of self respect and job insecurity, the staff decided it would be in their best interest to find employment elsewhere.

This isn’t political and it isn’t a strike. The staff quit and the matter will not be resolved. It’s a matter of business, and a personal matter for each of the staff. Everyone at Gorilla Coffee, including the owners and the staff, are skilled, passionate, and hard working. It is unfortunate for everyone involved. The workers are grateful to the many wonderful patrons over the years, and we apologize that it was necessary to inconvenience them in this way. All we can say is, “Thank you for the support and all the best.”


The workers of Gorilla Coffee

Updated 5:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

vince from dyker heights says:
wow, all this over a job where you sell a cup of poor delicate flowers of the 21st century, how will you survive in this tough tough world??? holy ——!
April 13, 2010, 7:48 am
John from East Williamsburg says:
Incredibly long-winded and tiring to read. After having read the whole thing twice, I still have no idea why they left.
April 13, 2010, 9:03 am
Danny from Windsor Terrace says:
An awful letter, "long-winded and tiring to read" is a perfect description. Engenders no sympathy whatsoever and tells us nothing about the "unhealthy situation." What are the issues? Are we drinking polluted coffee? Not that anyone will care after reading this letter.
April 13, 2010, 11:39 am
Tony V from South Slope says:
Totally agree with the above commenters. If you cannot explain adequately or succinctly what the issue is, then why will we care?

I am sure Gorilla will reopen real soon -- there are plenty of people who would love to work locally in these times.
April 13, 2010, 12:03 pm
juz from Carroll Gardens says:
Just tell us what this "business partner" did!!!!!
April 13, 2010, 12:19 pm
Mike Curatore from Carroll Gardens says:
Boo freaking Hoo! Poor little baristas are all going to go running home to their parents' basements because someone actually expected them to work to earn wages. I guess all the customers were eating into their socialization time. Maybe the folks at Gorilla expected their workers to provide excellent customer services, something these baristas tend not to know anything about. We should get a group of folks together to "volunteer" to work at Gorilla to show our solidarity with management who, despite the baristas smartly worded manifesto, still haven't done anything wrong as far as we can tell.
April 13, 2010, 3:11 pm from Boerum Hill says:
That was a lot of words for saying nothing at all!
April 13, 2010, 4:29 pm
Ben from Fort Greene says:
OK- so the letter didn't shed any light into why they decided the quit. Fair point-- they probably didn't want to put Gorilla's biz in the streets.

We shouldn't trivialize their jobs, though. They take pride in what they do, which is more than "pouring coffee." And their customer service was pretty good in my opinion.
April 14, 2010, 9:11 am
Al from Park Slope says:
Should be interesting when these ex-workers apply for a new job and have to explain to the HR doing their interview why they left their last job.
April 14, 2010, 9:57 am
joey Bots from Bot Land says:
Sounds like the rantings of a bunch of lazy hipsters - welcome to the real world kids!!!
April 20, 2010, 10:52 am
Ella from Park slope says:
You guys are awfully harsh. I'm sure they must've had a good reason to leave, I too am curious about details. If you're quitting already no reason to keep silent about specifics, just makes you look bad. But ease up with the barista/hipster insults, this is 5th ave in Park Slope, there's a beacon's closet across the street, it's hipster Mom territory, get over it.
April 25, 2010, 1:16 pm
left_facist from Greenpoint says:
The letter is cryptic and vague. This much is true. However the true tragedy is that even the Gorilla-7 themselves try to downplay their politics. Typical of left in this country. They should boldly state their objections and demand the solidarity of other workers. Instead we get a namby-pamby "resignation" letter stating it to be a "personal matter" and that it's just business. Is that even possible. Its abusive and personal and yet its just business (I think only a high-end call girl that offer the girlfriend experience can fit that paradox). A rose by another name is still a rose. It is in fact a strike! The workers should be proud to name it as such; Resignation should not have been an option. Picketing outside and hassling scabs and customers who would dare cross their picket line, this should have been the course.

Again, the Gorilla-7 should have made a clear case for their actions to engender support, but what the commentators to this blog post fail to recognize is their immediate knee-jerk reaction is to trust and defend management, almost unconditionally. Why? Seven people collectively decided that the place sucked. I'm not a betting man but those seem like pretty bad odds, 7 to 1, that management was actually right. I mean seven people actually came together willing to forfeit their income in a bad economy. Call me crazy, but that seems like things were pretty bad. I mean when was the last time you were able to agree with seven of your co-workers on matters both personal and business other than to get drinks together after work let alone to quit their jobs. "uh, yeah sure Bob, drinks , but I have to pay my rent. I'm sorry the boss is a drag but I'm not quitting with you." "Hey, guys are we having a little water cooler talk? What's up?" "Oh you know bob, he's on his soap box about how much of a drag Gladys is to work under." "Do you think we should quit?" "Maybe bob has a point." They all shout in unison, "We quit." "What are you doing tomorrow Bob since we're not working?" "Idk." "Let's get stoned and play hackie sack." Are you people honestly naive enough to believe that all seven of these workers are trustafarians?" Perhaps the folks who frequent this place for a cup of coffee could take their nose out of their blackberry for a second to think about how it is that that cup of coffee arrived in your hand. Can somebody say commodity fetishism!? Man Marx really was right! Don't you know there are many hands involved in producing that precious cup of coffee from plantation to barista, this is to say nothing of the skill involved in any of these trades be it farming, shipping, receiving, roaster or barista. Should you not respect this latter point alone as you view yourself as a skilled professional? Do you not?

When did the French Revolution happen again?
July 9, 2011, 2:12 am

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