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News brief: Smiling Goat owner is feeling the pressure

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Clearly coffee shop owner and (mis) manager Kit Singh is feeling the pressure of picketing workers and bad publicity.

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The operator of multiple Smiling Goat outlets owes many of his workers thousands of dollars, and has not lived up to a collective agreement in place with unionized former Just Us! employees that includes health benefits.

But after days of action he showed up this morning and started paying workers some of what they are owed, said Smiling Goat staffer Charlie Huntley at this morning’s picket of the Lower Water Street Smiling Goat café.

“Meanwhile he did threaten my employment if I were involved in today’s picket,” Huntley told the crowd of 40 or so current and former baristas and their supporters. “But we won’t stop until we are all paid what he owes us, and meets the rest of our demands and the terms of our collective agreement.”

The former Just Us cafés are unionized, while other cafés owned by Singh recently voted on whether to join their colleagues at Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2. Ballots have not yet been counted but the SEIU expects to win that vote.

Check out Rebecca Dingwell’s excellent story in the Coast for all you ever wanted to know about the issue.

Gary Burrill, leader of the provincial NDP attended the picket, and promised to raise the workers’ issues at the Legislature this afternoon.

“We hear a lot about (the campaign for) $15 and fairness, and most often we end up talking about the $15 part. Today we are talking about fairness. This is about the courage of working people like you, who say no, you don’t do this to us, this is why we have a union,” said Burrill.

These are super busy days for the SEIU, juggling Smiling Goat baristas and unjustly fired cleaners at Founders Square. SEIU Local 2 – Halifax president Jackie Swaine is confident the tiny but mighty local can pull it off, especially with some help of its friends, she tells the Nova Scotia Advocate.

“When things are happening to workers, and to SEIU members, we do what we have to do  to make sure that people are heard and that the wrongs are made right. The solidarity of Haligonians coming together, you can’t ask for anything more, it’s  absolutely fantastic,” she told the Nova Scotia Advocate.

SEIU Local 2 in Nova Scotia is located at 163 Wyse Road Dartmouth, NS B3A 1M5. Telephone: 902 455 1095. Toll Free (N.S. only): 1-800-563-1095.

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