Earlier this month, we reported on the closure of all five Augie's Coffee locations across California's Inland Empire. In a statement made via Instagram, the brand cited health and safety concerns for staff and customers resulting from the coronavirus outbreak in the state. But as previously reported, many of the now-former employees of Augie's tell a different story, alleging the company let go of 54 employees as a way of union busting, to “discourage union activities and/or membership,” per the Redlands Daily Facts. Since the charges were levied, which Augie's has since denied and are currently under investigation by the National Labor Relations Board, public demonstrations and multiple statements on social media have been made in support of the newly-minted Augie's Union.
And now, the Augie's Coffee Workers are alleging over $140,000 in wage theft violations.
Per a press release, former employees of the coffee company filed “18 individual wage theft claims averaging over $7,000 per worker with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement” on Thursday, July 23rd, with “additional claims expected in the coming days and weeks.” The alleged violations, per the statement, come via unpaid overtime as well as a lack of appropriate breaks. Read the statement in full:
A union formed by workers at the Augie’s Coffee chain in California, one of the few unions in an almost entirely non-union industry, has uncovered years of violations of wage, hour, and break time laws.
“During the years that I worked in the warehouse I would often work 8 hours straight without having the chance to take a lunch break — which it turns out is illegal,” said six-year employee Kelley Bader. “I trusted [Augie’s owners] the Amento’s and it’s startling to realize that laying us all off wasn’t the first time they were breaking the law.”
“During the pandemic there were weeks when I was working 10 days straight or more without overtime compensation or appropriate breaks,” said Katie Walsh, an employee from Redlands. “It's really upsetting that we worked so hard to keep Augie’s afloat during the pandemic and they repaid us by violating overtime laws and then laying us all off.”
Yesterday, workers filed 18 individual wage theft claims averaging over $7,000 per worker with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. These claims detail over $140,000 in violations committed by Augie’s Coffee over the last three years. Additional claims are expected in the coming days and weeks.
Augie’s Coffee workers demanded recognition of their union on June 26, and Augie’s owners Andy and Austin Amento responded by laying off all 54 workers on July 4. Workers have filed charges at the National Labor Relations Board, charging that the mass termination was in retaliation for joining a union. Those charges are currently under investigation.
When reached for comment, Augie's co-owner Austin Amento had this to say:
Augie’s Coffee never denied any employee a rest or meal break.
We always paid overtime to our employees after 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week as required by California law.
We have not seen any of these alleged claims and have been advised by counsel not to discuss the matter further at this time.
This story is developing…
Top image by Amber Sarelle used with permission.