It’s Time for Coffee Militias

Dan Canon
4 min readSep 15, 2022
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Congratulations are in order for workers at Heine Bros. Coffee for their recent success in forming the second largest baristas’ union in the country. They join in coffee camaraderie with the more than 200 Starbucks shops that have organized in the last year, along with a slew of other regional chains and a smattering of worker-owned cafes.

When so much seems so bleak, and those in power so apathetic, the rejuvenation of the American labor movement is one of the few events that could conceivably turn things around. There’s still a long way to go, though. Only a small fraction of Starbucks stores nationwide are unionized, and less than 2% of all food service workers belong to a union. What if we add a little accelerant to the roaster, an extra espresso shot to our solidarity latte, some caffeine to our extended metaphor, etc.? Progress-minded baristas can do just that in their upcoming contract negotiations by insisting on the right to form not just coffee unions, but coffee militias.

Hear me out. In addition to the increase in wages, retirement plans, health benefits, and better working conditions that coffee unions will undoubtedly ask for, why not add a semiautomatic rifle and basic combat training for every new hire? Arming of drink artists should easily pass muster as a reasonable safety measure in twenty-first century America. Coffee shops aren’t necessarily a top target of mass shooters, but they get hit every now and then, and you never know what the next mass-shooting fad will be. Besides, isn’t violent crime on the rise or something?

Anyway, crazed criminals are not the only danger facing our java slingers. A disciplined fighting force might make angry customers think twice about throwing their drink back through the drive-thru window (I am told this sort of thing occurs with some regularity). Hot coffee can cause third-degree burns, so chucking it at someone sounds like deadly force to me, and under the ridiculously broad self-defense laws of Kentucky and Indiana a barista could be well within their rights to blast away in response. I’d go so far as to say a well-armed coffee militia would greatly improve customer relations overall. If you’re the kind of dickhead who regularly berates service-industry employees, you might lighten up a bit if you knew it was a decorated sharpshooter who fucked up your drink.

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Dan Canon

Civil rights lawyer, law professor, and high school dropout. Writes about the Midwest, class struggle, and the untold horrors of the legal system.