Washington, D.C./ Food & Drinks
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Published on May 17, 2024
DC's The Wydown Coffee Shops Close Amidst Union Efforts, Leaving 30 Jobless OvernightSource: Google Street View

Customers and staff of The Wydown were left in the dark as the beloved DC coffee shop chain abruptly closed its doors, terminating 30 jobs overnight. Former employees found themselves without work following the shocking shutdown on Tuesday evening, right as unionization efforts were gaining momentum among the workforce.

"After 10 great years, we have closed both Wydown cafes," co-owner Alex McCracken disclosed in an email statement, as reported by Washingtonian. However, aggrieved workers suggest a different catalyst behind the closure, tying it to their recent moves to form a union. The Wydown employees had been working to unionize under Works United, an affiliate of SEIU, with grievances over pay, workplace conditions, and management disputes prompting their action.

Workers were blindsided by the sudden news, unlike their usual routine, learning about their job loss via their scheduling app around 8 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a barista's account to Axios. "To shutter their business in the night is shameful," said barista Chris Chandler, reflecting the sentiment of his colleagues. A GoFundMe has since been established to support the laid-off employees, many of whom "are living paycheck to paycheck."

Not one to be silenced, the workforce took to the streets the following morning, protesting outside the now-shuttered stores, one on 14th Street and the other on H Street. With management's refusal to voluntarily recognize the union, a vote scheduled for May 20 seemed moot in light of recent events, leaving workers to seek aid through legal channels. Union organizers have informed BizJournals that they're filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, with hopes to secure severance pay for the newly unemployed.

The coffee shop's abrupt closure has struck a nerve in the community, highlighting the often adversarial nature of worker-employer dynamics at a time when union activities are under the microscope. As the labor struggle unfolds, the shuttered windows of The Wydown hang as somber testament to the uncertain future faced by employees in the fight for fair labor practices.