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Heine Brothers shuts down Douglass Loop store, leaving union organizers “highly suspicious”

Heine Brothers shut down its Douglass Loop location on Thursday after more than 21 years of operation.

Heine Brothers president Mike Mays said the company is shifting its focus to drive-thru service, which the location does not have. It was the last active location without a drive-thru.

Some workers and union organizers are calling the closure “highly suspicious” due to union support among workers at the location.

Two months ago, Heine Brothers employees announced plans to unionize across several locations. They’re seeking higher hourly pay and stronger employee protections and benefits.

Robert Smith, with the Service Employees International Union, said workers were told to close the store midday with no warning.

“This is not something that had been discussed [with workers],” Smith said. “People can call it what they want, but it just seems odd to me, and it’s a shame that workers are treated in this fashion.”

Heine Brothers spokesperson Tyler Glick said the decision to close came a year ago, but they waited to find a replacement tenant before announcing it. TEN20 Craft Brewery will soon take over the location.

Glick said employees may transfer to one of their other 17 stores or accept a severance package.

Smith said the closure will not slow down organization efforts, and in fact highlights the necessity of unionization.

“There would’ve had to have been notice, 30 to 60 days notice, and then there would’ve been bargaining on how this impacted and what stores they could go to and severance packages.”

Noa August, a barista at the Douglass Loop location, said at a union press conference in April. that the company’s $9.25 hourly wage goes against the progressive image they present.

“Heine Brothers’ Coffee needs to respect their talented workforce enough to listen to the struggles that we are facing that have only been magnified by the COVID pandemic,” said August. “We are tired, we are stressed, we are underpaid and we cannot make ends meet with the unlivable wages and lack of benefits from Heine Brothers’ Coffee.”

In a statement to WHAS11 in April, a company spokesperson expressed a desire to avoid union involvement.

“While we respect our employees’ right to organize, we believe that, as a locally owned and operated company, Heine Brothers is well positioned to address the ideas and concerns of our employees without the involvement of a union,” the spokesperson said.

Heine Brother Coffee gives financial support to Louisville Public Media, which WFPL is a part of.

Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Michael is a senior studying journalism and political science at Western Kentucky University and a news reporter with WFPL and KyCIR.

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