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Good Karma Cafe temporarily closes another location months after workers unionize

Three months after its employees voted to unionize, Good Karma Cafe temporarily closed a second location.

Company president Shawn Nesbit confirmed the location at 22nd and Pine Streets was closed Friday until further notice. The Good Karma at 23rd and Walnut closed earlier this spring due to staff shortages. Two other locations, at Ninth and Pine and the Wilma Theater on South Broad Street, remain open.

“We have made the very difficult decision to temporarily close our Fitler Square site. We are taking this time to complete certain building and equipment repairs that require immediate attention,” Nesbit said in a statement. “We look forward to providing an enhanced Good Karma experience that benefits our employees, our customers and our community. We also look forward to meeting with the union to establish an agreement that works for both parties.

Good Karma workers’ union, United Karma, said in a statement that Nesbit had been repeatedly informed of structural problems at the Pine Street store. “[Given] the two pressing concerns that led to this closure – a leak in the ceiling that caused it to sink and a lack of adequate air conditioning – are issues that Shawn has been repeatedly told about for months, for the former, or years, for the latter, it’s hard not to see this as a union affair.

According to the statement and previous interviews with Good Karma workers, timely repairs are a key part of the union’s agenda for contract negotiations.

» READ MORE: Unions are preparing in cafes and restaurants. Will they change Philadelphia’s food scene?

The union also said workers “are extremely disappointed and frustrated” that employees at the 22nd and Pine site are being laid off instead of being transferred to one of two operating sites – or the 23rd and Walnut site, which remains closed. The union also expressed frustration that workers would have to reapply for jobs when closed sites reopen.

“Since the closure of the first store, 23 and Walnut, we have heard that Shawn wants to staff it and get it back up and running as soon as possible,” the statement read. “Instead of giving [workers] these options, they were told that if they wanted to continue working at Good Karma, they had to reapply.

“It is not only about improving working conditions, but also about securing our livelihoods,” the statement concluded.

Good Karma Workers voted for unionization at the end of March, 20-3. United Karma is affiliated with Philadelphia-based Workers United, which has also helped organize Starbucks workers across the country. Employees at five Starbucks in Philadelphia have voted to unionize since May.

Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement