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Five-Year Peet’s Coffee Veteran Fired Via Voicemail for Clocking In Late Three Times Over 365 Days

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You work for a company for five years. You’ve just been promoted. You clock in late for the third time in the last 365 days. And you’re promptly fired via voicemail.

Such is the story of Emma Bell Bern, a veteran Peet’s Coffee & Tea worker in Chicago whose Credo Mobile petition is rightfully approaching its goal of 2,000 signatures. The rash and unfair managerial action came one year after Bern and her fellow employees asked to meet about improving their wages and workplace.

My name is Emma Bell Bern, and until I recently I worked for Peet’s Coffee & Tea at the North Avenue store in Chicago, IL. On August 30th, I was fired for clocking in late 3 times in a 1-year period. After giving 5 years of my life to the company, I was not even afforded the respect of a meeting, but was fired via voicemail.

During those 5 years, I developed close relationships with many customers. I saw people meet and form relationships, women get pregnant and give birth, and children grow up. A few months before I was fired, I was promoted to shift leader. I couldn’t understand why a rapidly expanding company would throw away a worker with such a connection to the community – a worker valuable enough to promote – for nothing more than a 1.2% yearly tardiness record.

After being terminated, Bern asked for her regular customers’ support, gathering 50 signatures in her first two hours of asking. Eventually she was granted a meeting with her district manager who refused to overturn the decision. In an industry with high turnover, this case is a perfect example of the disconnect between management, employee, and customer.

In her description of the situation, Bern notes that the workforce has been subject to corporate retaliation following calls for dialogue regarding the workplace:

One year ago, other Chicago Peet’s employees and I formally petitioned the company for decent wages, regular schedules, and paid sick days for all employees. Instead of entering into a dialogue about these issues, Peet’s headquarters immediately and dramatically increased corporate oversight of the Chicago store. The corporate office worked steadily to change the culture of the store, and has finally succeeded in destroying a longstanding feeling of solidarity that once made Peet’s Sheffield feel like family to coworkers and customers alike.

In enforcing an environment of constant turnover and disregard for the worker’s voice, Peet’s management is creating a scenario in which the loyal customer is shortchanged:

Treating Peet’s workers like they are disposable not only disrespects the workers themselves–it disrespects Peet’s loyal client base. Pulitzer prize winning Chicago Tribune columnist and longtime Peet’s regular Mary Schmich put it perfectly in an April 2013 article: “What [people] don’t understand is that a good coffeehouse is never only coffee. It’s community… As [Peet’s] name spreads around Chicago and the suburbs, I hope the distant bosses keep finding the kind of employees who know how to make something corporate feel local and communal.” It’s time to stand up for that community by standing up for Peet’s employees.

On the surface, Peet’s tries to act like the good neighbor, the responsible employer. On the Peet’s Workers Group Facebook page, Pat O’Dea, CEO of Peet’s Coffee & Tea, is quoted as saying: “Challenge the status quo through the lens of our values. This is our rallying cry.”

The lens must be a little smudged. Veteran employees, especially those who excel like Emma Bell Bern, shoud not be expendible. Perhaps this petition will become the true Peet’s Coffe & Tea rallying cry.

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