‘We’re empowered now’: Ocean Hill café The Daily Press becomes first unionized indie coffee shop in New York City

The Daily Press coffee shop union
The Daily Press Coffee House and Bar in Ocean Hill has unionized, and is now cooperatively owned by employees.
Photo courtesy of Josh Thies

A coffee shop in Brooklyn has won a union contract, making it the first independently-owned coffee shop in New York City to do so. 

The Daily Press in Ocean Hill has partnered with Workers United NY/NJ — a North American labor labor union which represents nearly 86,000 workers, including recently-unionized Starbucks workers in Brooklyn – to transform the café into a cooperatively-run business. Now, all decisions regarding scheduling, wages, sick time and vacation are made democratically by the employees.

Employees will also be able to establish and implement practices to protect workers  — like profit-sharing, adding protections against harassment and discrimination and more.

The café opened as a coffee shop in 2016, but has since expanded to other business ventures including an evening bar service. Patrons at The Daily Press often enjoy fun events like trivia nights, poetry readings, karaoke, open mics and more. 

The Daily Press currently employs 15 staff members to keep up with the demands of the business and the community. 

In November 2022, workers unanimously voted to pursue a union contract with Workers United after the café’s then-owner announced a plan to cut employee hours – and were officially recognized just a month later when former bartender Joshua Thies purchased the cafe from its previous owner.

The Daily Press Coffee House union
Workers now collectively make decisions regarding profit-sharing and more. Photo courtesy of The Daily Press/Instagram

“Since the successful unionization, I noticed a significant change in the team,” said Thies said in a statement. “Folks have a voice, autonomy, and the ability to make positive change. They took on a lot of responsibility. The way they support each other, and me, is something to be commended. They make Daily Press run the way it runs and it’s downright inspiring.”

Employees said their work experience is much more positive since they unionized — and that the ability to have more involvement in decision-making bolsters their confidence in the workplace.

“We’re empowered now,” said bartender Gabriel Caldwell. “Our contract is unique. We all meet once a month, and per that contract, we make all operational decisions collectively. The goal is to move towards cooperative ownership. As a starting place, we committed to cooperative operation. It’s been amazing to grow together, and we are excited for the future.”

Other workers echoed this sentiment, saying that the unionization made them more passionate about their jobs.

“I’m brand new to the Daily Press team, but I’ve been a member of the family for years,” bartender Nick Feder said. “Joining the team, I feel empowered and trusted to be an active part of what makes this place so magical. And with unionization I feel like we’re paving the way and providing a guiding light for others in similar situations to do the same. Feels good.”