Last month, seven of the 17 Washington, DC-area locations of Compass Coffee announced their intent to unionize with Workers United, the branch of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) that has helped over 400 Starbucks store unionize. Per the Washington Post, when the union efforts were first announced Compass co-founder and chief executive Michael Haft released a statement saying, “At Compass Coffee we recognize and deeply value the hard work and dedication of our employees. Our team is critical to our success, and we are committed to ensuring that they are respected, supported and fairly compensated. We take their concerns seriously and are committed to actively engaging in constructive dialogue to address them.”

Fast forward one month and the company is being accused of hiring 124 new employees at the unionizing locations in an effort to the tip vote in their favor.

As reported by The Guardian, the accusations first came to light via the Twitter account for Compass Coffee United, alleging that the new hires include “dozens of friends of management, including other local food service executives and an Uber lobbyist.” They go on to allege that Compass is “manipulating worker schedules retroactively to try to make the new employees eligible to vote in the union election.”

“We received their first voter list. There were 43 people on the Georgetown cafe list, most of whom I have never met or seen in the cafe before,” said Penina Meier-Silverman, a shift supervisor at the Georgetown Compass Coffee store. “So the cafes are just flooded with new baristas. We also saw that they were forging schedules for days that have already passed. So they put people on the schedule for days that have passed that were never at work.”

advert new rules of coffee now available


Among the alleged new employees are the president of a chips/snack brand, the founder and CEO of a local bagel shop, and the VP and CEO/founder of Union Kitchen, a brand that has a close relation with Compass (as well as a tumultuous union battle of their own). One of the other new employees, Liz Brown, a lobbyist for Uber, states that she is in no way employed with the company: “I recently attended a training on June 9 alongside several other new hires at Compass, and as part of that training I signed the same paperwork everyone there did. However, I never worked a shift beyond that initial training, and as soon as this all came to light I reached out to Compass and asked to be removed from their employment system. This was entirely in my personal capacity as Tizzy Brown, and has nothing to do with my full-time job.”

The CCU states the recent hirings amount to no less than a 190% increase in total Compass Coffee employees.

In an email response to the Guardian, Haft states, “We believe all employees of Compass Coffee at the locations that have been petitioned are eligible. The list reflects the current employees at the time of the vote. As such, we will stay in close communication with our partners to ensure the most up-to-date list on the 14th as there is often normal turnover and growth in the service industry, especially seasonally, and we expect our final list to be reflective of that… Due to privacy concerns, we have a longstanding policy not to comment on individual employees without their consent.”

Per the Washington Post, the CCU is fighting primarily to bring back tipping. Compass enforced a no-tip policy in March of 2020, with workers stating they were assured they would receive a commensurate pay increase. But they say that bump never came and that end net result was an overall decrease in their take-home.

The CCU has filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over the new hires as well as alleged retaliation efforts by Compass, including writing up employees for talking about the union with a customer and wearing pro-union pins.

The union vote will take place July 16th.

Zac Cadwalader is the managing editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.