Former employees of Augie’s Coffee, which closed their shop at Vail Headquarters in Temecula recently, and their supporters protested in front of Augie’s Coffee in Redlands after being fired from their jobs – demanding answers.
Earlier in July, Augie’s Coffee announced they would be closing all of their stores and laying off their entire staff due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The closing of stores is indefinite as we need time to reevaluate how Augie’s can operate safely in the future,” owner Austin Amento said in a public statement. “The stress and fatigue that each one of you feel in your lives, we feel as well.”
Amento expressed sadness and regret on social media, stating that his decision to bring operations at Augie’s to a halt was made due to several staff members contracting COVID-19 while at work. The announcement on Instagram received thousands of comments from former staff members and those who support them. After receiving an overwhelming amount of feedback, Augie’s Coffee turned off comments on their most recent Instagram posts.
“We had experienced some positive dialogue from individual staff while handing out last checks at Riverside and Claremont,” Amento said. “The hostility and threats we experienced at 2.0 and continue to receive have prevented any dialogue from taking place to date.”
Following a series of Instagram posts by Augie’s Coffee, former employees decided to form a union in response to what they saw as management’s failure to institute safety measures to keep employees safe during the pandemic. Some workers opted to stay home because they did not feel safe at work, according to Augie’s Union. When attempting to return to work, management told them that there was no longer room for them on the schedule. Many employees received little to no communication from management during their time at home.
Augie’s Union said that business had been good in recent months, and the company received funds from the Paycheck Protection Program, a loan designed for small businesses to allow them to keep workers on their payroll during the pandemic.
“I was a regular at Augie’s before I worked for the company. Every good experience I had was because of the workers serving me,” former barista Miranda Castaneda said. “I was so happy to finally work somewhere I thought I could be proud of. I want to continue to feel proud. But I need to see better. I need to see my co-workers and myself valued and prioritized.”
Since the initial protest at Augie’s Redlands, Augie’s Union has continued to fight for their right to be heard. Recently they appeared on ABC 7 and hosted an event for people to sign petitions and hear the stories of former employees at Augie’s Riverside location on Main Street.
“They supplied the tools, but we built the house,” former barista Sean Darcy said. “All we’re asking for is an equal say in how it runs.”
For more information, find Augie’s Union on Instagram at @augiesunion.
Samantha Cox can be reached by email at email@example.com.