The 100-plus employees of Go Get Em Tiger (GGET) and G&B Coffee, who work for the brand’s eight LA retail coffee shops and warehouse, have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to unionize with IBEW Local 45. According to a press release provided to Eater LA, the Go Get Em Tiger union is seeking various worker protections, including consistent schedules and pay structures, as well as solutions to “hazardous conditions” in the workplace and what the union describes as “issues of racism, homophobia, and transphobia” that are “swept under the rug.”
Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski, both formerly of Intelligentsia, opened G&B Coffee more than 10 years ago and GGET in 2014. Since then, the company has grown rapidly into one of Southern California’s most respected coffee companies, with GGET locations in Culver City, Larchmont Village, Highland Park, and Los Feliz. (Babinski departed the company in 2020.) The new Go Get Em Tiger union joins a wave of restaurant and specialty coffee unions that have organized in recent years, and closely follows the organizing efforts across the restaurant, entertainment, and hospitality industries this summer.
Union leaders began collecting signed authorization cards in November and garnered 70 percent approval among workers, according to the release. On November 22, IBEW Local 45 informed ownership of the workers’ intent to unionize and asked for voluntary recognition of the union. In response, the company hired Akerman, LLP attorneys Amy Moor Gaylord and Ryan Krone to assist in the matter, the release says. (Previously, Gaylord and Krone authored articles on how to keep “workplaces union free,” according to union representatives.) The release states that Glanville and GGET chief operations officer Elena Ceridono co-signed a letter on December 1 that did not address the union’s request for voluntary recognition.
“Unions are a net good thing,” said Andrew Paley, a barista at G&B and the Highland Park store, who worked for GGET in 2019 and was furloughed during the pandemic. They returned to work in a management role from September through December 2022 before transitioning to a barista position in October 2023. “It allows for an owner to be checked into the everyday reality of the people that make them money,” Paley said in a statement. Paley also says the union can address pertinent issues related to shortened worker shifts, overall workplace safety, and how the company approaches disciplinary actions.
Cooper Shaw, a cook at the Highland Park location for the past six months, told Eater that he’d never seen a company fire so many workers in his 10 years of working in food service. He believes the union will improve employees’ job security and encourage due process for terminations. Shaw alleges that the Highland Park location’s kitchen endures 100-plus degrees temperatures during hot weather and wants to work with ownership on addressing those working conditions. “I’m pretty excited,” Shaw said about joining the union. “I think things are going to go in our favor based on what I’ve seen in recent years with unions, but a lot of it comes down to how the company responds.”
In the press release, the union also invited the company’s leadership to work with them: “Go Get Em Tiger will always be a union company with or without executive leadership’s cooperation. We will reaffirm our choice with a vote if we must, but we’d prefer to begin bargaining and strengthen our workplace now.”
Glanville provided Eater with the following statement regarding the newly formed union:
This is all very new to us, so we’re learning as much as we can. We want to know what it would mean to work with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and we want to make sure our employees understand that also, so that everyone can cast an informed vote. Everyone at GGET is devoted to building the best workplace possible. While we’ve made a lot of progress recently, that work is far from done. We’re doing a lot of listening, and my biggest hope is that as many eligible employees as possible cast an informed vote to decide whether they want to do this work hand in hand, or through the IBEW.
The GGET and G&B Coffee union follows the La Colombe union that was formed at the end of 2022 representing workers at the Century City and Silver Lake locations; it did not include the Frogtown or Beverly Hills stores. Relatedly, the workers at Genwa Korean barbecue restaurants successfully unionized its three locations in July 2022.
On a national scale, workers at Starbucks locations around the country rallied to form Starbucks Workers United in December 2021; it is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union. While a few Starbucks locations in the LA area have unionized, the company closed other local stores in July 2023 citing “worker safety.” Further afield, workers at Redlands-based Augie’s Coffee formed a union in 2020; the company later closed all its cafes and laid off more than 100 employees, citing the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.