Spyhouse Coffee Roasters management has told its workers who want to unionize that they can buy its five Twin Cities cafes.
Spyhouse Coffee, in a statement sent out to media, said that in response to workers who have petitioned to unionize, it was offering this "exciting opportunity" to workers.
"Spyhouse heard these requests and has decided to offer Unite 17 and the employees the opportunity to buy the five cafes and operate them as union-owned and -run coffee cafes," said the statement from Spyhouse, which is owned by Christian Johnson.
Sheigh Freeberg, secretary and treasurer for Unite Here Local 17, said it could be possible for the coffee chain to be turned into a worker cooperative.
However, Spyhouse hasn't spoken to workers or Unite, which has helped workers in their union push. Instead, the business went straight to news outlets with the statement, Freeberg said.
The move is a reflection of the lack of transparency and lack of respect for the workers that they have been fighting against, he said in an e-mail.
"This feels like an attempt to distract from the very real issues at hand the workers want to address," Freeberg said. "Instead of cooperating with his workers to listen to their concerns this owner has chosen to say to people he mostly pays minimum wage that if they want a say in the business, they can purchase it."
In August, groups of workers across Spyhouse locations requested that Johnson and the chain's management voluntarily recognize their union. Workers have said one of their main concerns pertains to inadequate safety protections while working during the coronavirus pandemic, including what they said has been a lack of proper cleaning supplies and lack of enforcement on social distancing.
Workers said they want Spyhouse management to also address racial equity and foster a respectful work environment where workers have a voice.
Local 17 said that nearly 90% of eligible workers have signed union authorization cards. Workers also have staged demonstrations outside of the coffee shops.
Local 17 has made headlines in recent weeks as it worked with employees in union efforts at Tattersall Distilling, Fair State Brewing and Surly Brewing Co.
At Spyhouse, Freeberg said Local 17 will continue to push to get a vote for the union.