This morning, after two months in Chicago, I made it to my favorite coffee place for the first time, Peet’s Coffee. Boy, do I love that coffee! Nevertheless, my joy was tempered by the young woman I met who was sitting outside the shop. She was quietly asking for support to have her job reinstated. She has worked at that store for five years. She was fired last week because three times in the past year she was late to work. Her problem is that she is not paid enough to live near the Peet’s Coffee store. Therefore she has to commute from far away. She also has to be at the store at 4:45 am. Her manager wanted to keep her on but her supervisor overruled the decision. The reason for this unusual step is that last year the employee took part in an effort to raise remuneration above minimum wage and also to allow for sick days. Not having sick folks make my coffee seems pretty sound to me.
Peet’s Coffee is not well represented in Chicago, yet. Next May, however, all the Caribou Coffee stores – and there are a lot of them – will become Peet’s. That means we will have at least two near Temple Sholom. I hope to be frequenting the shops and not picketing them. Nevertheless, it seems wrong when a loyal employee is let go because of a systemic problem (employees cannot afford to live nearby) and for trying to make the business she loves more responsible.
Peet’s Coffee is not alone in making it difficult for its loyal employees to serve its customers and makes ends meet themselves. A seemingly inexhaustible supply of willing workers may entice corporate suits to reason that taking care of workers is unnecessary. I think that outlook is short-sighted for many reasons, including moral and practical. This much I know: I will not be frequenting Peet’s Coffee in the future if such practices are not addressed. And when it comes to coffee, I have a very big mouth.
So I say “for Peet’s Sake” I hope Peet’s will do the right thing.
Rabbi Edwin Goldberg serves as the senior rabbi of Temple Sholom of Chicago, is the coordinating editor of the forthcoming CCAR Machzor, and is the author of five books including, Saying No and Letting Go: Jewish Wisdom on Making Room for What Matters Most and Love Tales from the Talmud.