Halifax — Nova Scotia coffee chain the Smiling Goat has been in the news since early March, when baristas placed a sign in front of the shop asking patrons to tip generously because their paychecks had been bouncing.
Baristas even staged a protest on Saturday, demanding to be paid what in some cases amounted to thousands of dollars owed from Smiling Goat owner Kit Singh. Just one day after the protest, the minimum wage in Nova Scotia went up to $11 per hour, which means squat for baristas of Smiling Goat-owned coffee shops.
“Zero dollars per hour, to zero dollars per hour — whoop-dee-doo!” said sarcastic coffee-slinger Jade McNeil, who has been paying rent in empty beer bottles and dumpster-diving for her meals. “Eleven bucks is actually pathetic, if you think about it, but it sounds pretty damn great to me these days. Especially now that I’ve learned to exist on the occasional quarters and dimes that customers leave on the counter at work.”
“I remember the good old days when I had luxuries like hot water, and could afford toilet paper,” said part-time barista, full-time business student Jeff Colton. “I would have scoffed at a paltry $11-an-hour-plus-tips wage. Now I sneak into hotels to shower and steal their mini-shampoos and soaps. And when customers leave the store I lick the crumbs from their plates…and if I’m being honest, I’ve been keeping my cat in the storage closet because we were evicted last month.”
Regular customer Howard Doolittle said the past few times he’s come into the shop, the place has reeked of body odour and desperation instead of coffee beans and baked goods.
“I hate tipping — never do it — but it seems like most of these employees haven’t showered or slept or had a warm meal in weeks. I’m tipping like 500 per cent now. I feel too guilty otherwise.”
The baristas have all but lost hope of ever seeing the money they’re owed, and are threatening to move into the coffee shop if they’re not paid by the end of the week.
“We’ll pull the tables together and toss some sleeping bags on top for beds, we’ll bathe in the bathroom sink, we’ll eat the food we sell, we’ll use the free Wi-Fi to look for new jobs,” listed Gina Lowell, who hasn’t been paid in months. “This place owes us that much. And I’m pretty crafty — I’ll throw some creative touches into the decor and make it feel like home.
“It’s about time we take matters into our own hands…because this theoretical $11 minimum wage means fuck all.”