Seattle, WA – On August 21, around 60 people gathered for a picket outside of Homegrown Cafe in the neighborhood of Queen Anne. The picket was organized to demand a better contract and safer conditions for Homegrown workers. Backed by a full drum kit and the rhythmic honking of passing cars, the crowd chanted “Brad, Brad, give us cash! Power to the working class!”
“I’m glad to see how much people are supporting it,” Carlo Castro, a worker at Homegrown’s South Lake Union location, said as marched with the crowd. Signs reading “Worker solidarity” and “Heat pay now” hovered over the street during rush hour. “I’m really hoping that the higher ups in corporate see that there’s a lot of people supporting this. And it’s not just one store, it’s every store.”
Joining the outpouring of Homegrown workers were members of Seattle’s Strike Solidarity Committee, community activists, and other union workers. “I was actually very surprised with the turnout,” said Bryan Kinney, a UNITE HERE Local 8 worker currently at Google. “There’s a lot of people, like rivaling how many people we had show up to Facebook actions. Any win for a union shop is a win for me.”
A major issue to come out of the last bargaining session was union job security. Last week, the company “sat down and made a proposal about selling the company and getting rid of the union,” said Zane Smith, a worker at Homegrown’s Redmond location. “And when we asked them why they think we would agree to that, they said, ‘well, it’s a tough market out there and we want to be able to sell to somebody who doesn’t like the union.’ And to that we say: that’s your problem, not our problem.”
Then, of course, there’s the issue of wages. “I’m definitely fighting for higher wages,” Castro said. “We’re counting on higher wages to support our families, pay our bills. I feel like it’s about time they give people better pay.” On top of low pay, Homegrown workers are excluded from acquiring tips from DoorDash delivery orders, which make up a significant amount of orders in some shops.
Workers have also been fighting for a contract that better addresses workplace safety, specifically air ventilation and extreme heat. “The Redmond store has been open since around 2015 and it’s been very smoky in there the entire time because the oven isn’t ventilated,” said Smith. “We went to corporate and we delegated about the smoke. Corporate didn’t fix it.” It wasn’t until after multiple strike votes, innumerable bargaining sessions, and an actual strike that the Redmond shop finally received proper ventilation. However, many of Homegrown’s other locations are still subject to unsafe heat and poor air quality.
The next bargaining session is on September 1. The workers are united in their determination to win a better contract from their bosses. “We’re going to go in at 9 a.m., and we’re going to bargain all day. We’ll stay till 10 at night, we’ll stay till 11, we’ll stay till midnight if that’s what it takes,” said Smith as he spoke to the cheering group of rank-and-filers. Chants of “Are you strike ready? I’m strike ready!” then broke out before the crowd dispersed.