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Fired Ozzie’s barista gets out-of-court settlement in ‘union’ flap

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A former barista who sued Ozzie’s coffeehouse, alleging that store owners fired him for trying to unionize, won a $15,500 out-of-court settlement from the Park Slope java joint last month.

“I’m happy that this is all behind me,” said Jeff Bauer, whose suit was backed by the National Labor Relations Board. “I can move on knowing that at least one boss will think twice before interfering with a worker’s right to organize.”

The dough covers the wages and tips that Bauer claims he lost since being canned last year. Ozzie’s, which has two locations in Park Slope, is also required to display a notice for 60 days saying that it will not discriminate against employees for participating in union activities.

“[Ozzie’s] will not discharge, issue warnings to, reduce the work hours of, or otherwise discriminate against, any employee for engaging in activities on behalf of Industrial Workers of the World, or any other labor organizations, or for engaging in protected concerted activities,” reads the notice.

But co-owner Melissa Azulai said that she settled with Bauer because it was less expensive than bringing the case in front of an administrative law judge. And she maintained that Bauer was sacked for poor performance — not for organizing.

“We got a lot of complaints from customers about Jeff’s service,” said Azulai. “His firing had absolutely nothing to do with him being part of a union.”

As such, the settlement does not get Bauer what he claims he really wanted: his old job back.

“Absolutely not,” said Azulai. “We don’t want him back.”

Luckily for Bauer, he landed a unionized job as a janitor at the College of Staten Island.

Bauer worked at the Seventh Avenue Ozzie’s location for a year. He said that his problems started when he yapped to customers about witnessing a hostile confrontation between a co-worker and his manager’s boyfriend.

“I was so distraught by the argument because it looked like it was going to turn violent,” Bauer said. “Later, customers asked me why I looked upset so I told them what happened.”

Bauer thinks that the manager, Raphael Bernadine, got wind of his gossiping and took revenge by cutting his full-time hours in half.

So Bauer called the International Workers of the World, a century-old union with its roots in the 1920s, to demand that Bernadine restore his slashed hours.

Instead, Bauer was fired.

And that’s where the stories diverge. Bauer believes he was sacked because he sought union protection — which would be a violation of a 1935 federal law that prohibits businesses from firing an employee for union activity.

But Ozzie’s owners say that Bauer’s charges were severely overcaffeinated.

Indeed, Azulai’s termination letter to Bauer made no mention of his union activities, citing only “poor performance” and “customer complaints” as the reasons for the sacking.

Updated 11:26 am, April 5, 2011: This story was first reported by Park Slope Patch (http://parkslope.patch.com/articles/former-ozzies-barista-settles-for-15500).
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Reasonable discourse

Steven Rosenberg from ParkSlope says:
Yipee, another victory for the creeping socialist state. When there are no small businesses like this remaining post-blackmail stunts like this, we'll all get our coffee at Dunkin Donuts--can't wait.

PS: what kind of loser wants to unionize a tiny café anyway? It's not a career job. Get a clue, sir.
April 5, 2011, 7:29 am
InTheSlope from Park Slope says:
@Steven Rosenberg from ParkSlope

You’re rant is the typical ‘Republican/Conservative’ crap that ——es about your ‘rights’ but disparages anyone else that wants to exercise theirs…. For some it just may be a ‘career’ that gets them thru law school so they can defend others from people like you….
April 5, 2011, 8:09 am
Carl from Flatbush says:
This is a very good piece on an all-too-common abuse of workers' rights. Except for the last sentence: "Indeed, Azulai’s termination letter to Bauer made no mention of his union activities...". As any labor lawyer - union or employer side -- knows :Employers never ever cite "union activity" in writing as a reason for termination. This is tantamount to signing a confession of guilt. They always cite poor work performance. The same is true of terminations for other discriminatory reasons. No employer ever says - in writing - that they are firing someone for being black, a women, etc.
April 5, 2011, 9:03 am
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
you don't have to tip union employees, right?
April 5, 2011, 9:57 am
Joey from Park Slope says:
Does the IWW do anything more than get workers fired from crappy jobs? And then somehow it's a "win" because they got one guy a settlement? What a waste of time. IWW= I Won't Work.
April 5, 2011, 12:29 pm
Joey from Park Slope says:
Does the IWW do anything more than get workers fired from crappy jobs? And then somehow it's a "win" because they got one guy a settlement? What a waste of time. IWW= I Won't Work.
April 5, 2011, 12:29 pm
Holman from Phillips says:
It's depressing to see such a clear-cut hatchet job on against an honest, hard-working individual like Jeff. I've known Jeff for nearly 20 years, and his work-ethic and customer service skills are top-notch. It was unfair and unethical of Ozzie's to fire Jeff, and for once an employer was forced to do the right thing. One more thing it might be important to note: Reverlie Thomas is store manager Raphael Bernadine's sister. Sorta changes the impact of her sticking close to the boss, doesn't it?
April 5, 2011, 1:23 pm
Mike from Pilsen, Chicago says:
Thank you Jeff for standing up for yourself as a worker. Being a small business does not mean getting away with firing workers for concerted activity!
April 5, 2011, 3:24 pm
Mike from Pilsen, Chicago says:
Thank you Jeff for standing up for yourself as a worker. Being a small business does not mean getting away with firing workers for concerted activity!
April 5, 2011, 3:24 pm
Sean Carleton from Canada says:
"International Workers of the World" - good job Brooklyn Paper.com. (Slow clap. Slow clap. Slow clap). Do your research before spewing out pro-employer "news."
April 5, 2011, 3:31 pm
Rob from Greenpoint says:
Sounds like thuggish extortion to me.
April 5, 2011, 3:36 pm
Aaron from Minneapolis says:
Bauer didn't "sue" Ozzie's. The charges were brough by the National Labor Relations Board after Bauer reported the violations to them. The National Labor Relations Board wins 90% of its cases before a judge. Get it right, "journalists".
April 5, 2011, 3:41 pm
InTheSlope from Park Slope says:
Ozzies must be taking ' employee relations advice form Gorilla coffee owners…. ‘Gorilla Coffee Workers Aren’t Coming Back’…

http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/11/gorilla-coffee-workers-arent-coming-back/
April 5, 2011, 4:31 pm
Shutupandwork from NY says:
Unions are antiquated and create a mob mentality. It's Us vs. Them... If it's too hot in the kitchen punk, start your own business instead of ruining another...
April 5, 2011, 4:46 pm
jj from brooklyn says:
NLRB wins most cases because most are settled before reaching a judge; they're too costly — and hopeless — for most business to fight (regardless of who's right). Basically, where there are many legitimate cases, there are plenty of cases that are nothing more than extortion.
April 5, 2011, 4:57 pm
Danielle from Flatbush says:
Jeff Bauer's experience helps me understand why it's a worthwhile fight to organize whatever your occupation may be. I detest what the bosses say about Bauer's charges, because no matter what kind of business you run (with 2 locations or thousands or whatever) it's a worker's right to organize. A small feat perhaps, but inspiring for someone like me - interested in organizing the restaurant industry. When I am ready to reach out, I know I am going to come across a lot of people who don't understand the possibility or importance of unions.
April 5, 2011, 8:30 pm
George from Queens says:
If this is what happens when they discover you after going union sign me up! I could pay for my loans just by getting wrongfully fired! But seriously, they broke the law. Support the working man!
April 5, 2011, 9:39 pm
Lawrence from Prospect Park says:
Looks like Alex never bothered to read the original (and more detailed) article in the Park Slope Patch. If this guy was such a horrible employee why was he offered a position as store MANAGER? Why was he never written up until AFTER the incident where the store manager's boyfriend physically assaulted his coworker? Dodgy bosses never cite Union activity for dismissal, that would be actionable under Federal and State labor laws...
April 5, 2011, 9:46 pm
LibsAreCommies from everywhere says:
Outlaw unions. Kill union thugs.
April 5, 2011, 9:46 pm
wobblie from crown hieghts says:
the IWW doesn't "get" workers fired. we know the risks when we attempt to organize a shop. the blame should be placed on the corrupt, union-busting bosses.
April 6, 2011, 12:01 am
wobblie from crown heights says:
"start your own business" yeah. because everyone can just run out and do that. what kind of capitalist fantasy world are you living in?
April 6, 2011, 12:04 am
Rob says:
Outstanding! It's inspirational to see someone fight back and win when mistreated. I'm showing this (using a non Rupert Murdock source) to my senior students for class.
April 6, 2011, 1:38 am
Jim Howard says:
Abuse of workers, especially in small shops, is increasingly too common. First we learn how to fight, then we'll get rid off our bosses
April 6, 2011, 1:43 am
Keith says:
Unions in a coffee shop how ridiculous! Will all of you who support this garbage be happy when you pay 3-4 times more for your beloved coffee because the shop is forced to have union workers and the cost of dues are passed on to you the customer? Get a grip idiots... Our freedoms are eroding daily!
April 6, 2011, 6:03 am
fatimah from cobble hill says:
me so horny .....
April 6, 2011, 6:29 am
nickel from Baltimore says:
It seems like there are more and more morons every day. Unions in coffee shops. Yeh, that is a great idea. What a sweat shop those coffee machines hide. This article would be funny if it wasn't true.

Get a union to protect your lazy behind. Yeh, and now where is this american hero? Working as a union janitor. Great future in that.

Just another union parasite, too lazy to work too stupid to hold a real job.
April 6, 2011, 8:28 am
vicky from kansas says:
If it is his right to work why isn't it the owners right to fire his butt? You know what they say 'if you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen.'
Yummmmm coffee only $10 a cup. hahahahahahaha
April 6, 2011, 8:44 am
Shutupandwork from NY says:
How typical of left wingers to hate businesses, yet they worship unions who extort money for them. Why couldn't this disgruntled worker get another job, which he did anyway? Why work somewhere where you're not appreciated?

This anti-capitalistic mentality is just pure jealousy...
April 6, 2011, 9:25 am
Lee from WSMR says:
I decided long ago that if my employees want a union they can work for some else. I will close the door of my business at the first sign of unon organizing and the employees know it.
April 6, 2011, 9:57 am
IWW from Organizer/Worker says:
@Lee, what business do you run?
April 6, 2011, 4:57 pm
Liberte from Locke says:
Oh, Brooklyn Paper, maybe if your journalists were union they would know how to interview, how to write, and how to see through the lies of a bad boss caught in the act.

Yeah, like Melissa gave up over 15 grand just to avoid a trial. She was forced to do it by the National Labor Relations Board. They found merit in the legal claims if they did not then no settlement would have been reached.

Everyone can cry a tear for the poor small business owner that has to pay up for their abuses. Unions aren't about destroying businesses but about making businesses be held accountable to the workers they need in order to exist in the first place. Without workers, be it coffee makers or janitors, you have no business, period.

Your welcome for all the hard work Jeff gave you and all the money you made off him while you allow management to share in the tips, which is also illegal and while you don't pay overtime, yet again, illegal. Your also welcome that Jeff was able to help a customer retrieve their stolen laptop by chasing the thief down all the while you try to drag his name through the mud.

You are welcome. You never deserved such a hard worker but you had one, abused him, he fought back, so you fired him, he continued to fight back, he won, and no matter what anyone publicly believes or thinks about this issue you will always know that what you did was wrong, that Raphael is a live wire that will only cause you more legal problems in the future.

Also, while you talk —— about Jeff just know that he was the only one to challenge Raphael and Jason's Holocaust denier language that came up at the job. Understand that Jeff believes strongly in doing the right thing and that you never deserved an employee with such a strong work ethic or moral beliefs....but after all that, you're still welcome.

Sincerely,
Liberte Locke
IWW Union Organizer and Worker, Union Barista at Starbucks Coffee, NYC
April 6, 2011, 5:10 pm
nancy from park slope says:
well i am never going to Ozzie's again. this is so disgusting. the baristas always look miserable there. now i know why.
April 6, 2011, 7:27 pm
dean from chicago says:
1) It's "Industrial" Workers of the World
2) Bauer didn't sue the coffee shop-- The National Labor Relations Board brought charges against it because firing people for organizing is illegal.
3) Bauer did not exhibit "poor performance"-- he was offered a manager's position before word of his organizing efforts offended management.
4) Industrial unions like the IWW (which are not the same as closed shop craft unions) don't "extort money" from members-- membership is voluntary. No one requires that baristas or other service employees join such a union, yet employees opt to join, because injustice in such industries is common.

The corrupt management of this company wagered that they could successfully bully Bauer. They lost that wager.
April 8, 2011, 12:18 am
Jakov from PS says:
Another bloody loser gets the job he deserves in Staten Island: Cleaning toilets
Aug. 3, 2011, 9:28 pm

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