Barista claims that Ozzie’s owners are java fiends

Supporters and union activists rallied over the summer for Jeff Bauer, a former barista at Ozzie’s coffee bar in Park Slope, which fired him. Now a federal labor board is getting involved.
Community Newspaper Group / Steven Goodstein

A barista fired from the popular Seventh Avenue coffee bar Ozzie’s is claiming home-brewed harassment!

Jeff Bauer, who worked at the Park Slope java joint for more than a year before he was let go in late June, is suing Ozzie’s for unfair labor practices. The disgruntled barista went public with his rage on July 2, when he held a midday rally in front of the Lincoln Place store.

A week later, he led another public protest, brandishing signs accusing the shop of “fresh-squeezed mistreatment.”

Bauer says that Ozzie’s management created a hostile work environment, and cut his hours when he complained to customers about his treatment.

The bad workplace situation came to a head when Bauer was challenged by the general manager’s boyfriend.

“He [the boyfriend] took me downstairs and told me, ‘I’m gonna kick your ass,’ ” Bauer said. “It got to the point where I didn’t feel safe.”

Bauer also accuses Ozzie’s of unfairly discriminating against him when the owners, Allon and Melissa Azulai, got word this June of his affiliation with the Industrial Workers of the World, a century-old union with its roots in fighting for wages in the 1920s that has more recently focused its efforts on unionizing Starbucks.

But the Azulais, who have owned and operated Ozzie’s for 17 years, are adamant that Bauer’s charges are severely overcaffeinated. Bauer was not fired because of his union status, they say, but because he failed to meet Ozzie’s customer service standards.

“I’m flabbergasted by this,” said Allon Azulai, who claimed that he has never seen an employee act like this. “We treat our employees well, but he was constantly complaining to customers and other employees. Customers didn’t like it, and it was hurting our business. How would you feel if you hired an assistant, and every time someone talked to him, he trashed you?”

Azulai added that Bauer was “a good guy,” but that he was extremely paranoid, to the point where he believed that the shop’s security cameras were spying on him. The Ozzie’s owner hopes that the controversy blows over soon, and that Bauer will find another job somewhere else.

Bauer, on the other hand, plans to keep applying pressure until his former employer reaches its boiling point.

“I’m not just fighting for my job back; I’m sending a clear message to bosses everywhere that you cannot get away with harassing, mistreating or retaliating against workers who stand up for themselves,” he said.

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