UPDATE as of 3/14/17: We saw the notorious Grim Reaper today in front of our Fillmore Store. For the record, that store had very little millwork since it was a boba shop prior to us moving in, so it doesn't even apply to Local 22. We're super humbled since we definitely don't deserve such a high-profile villain such as the Grim Reaper. Local 22 will continue protesting us since we won't use their specific general contractors (those who bankroll the protesters). We even offered them a sizable annual donation which they refused. There are a lot of words others have used to describe their tactics. We will stay neutral. But as the public knows, we always strive to #DoTheRightThing, so we will not back down. We apologize for any inconvenience.
UPDATE as of 3/8/17: We met with the heads of the Local 22 carpenters union. We had a spirited and honest dialogue about the situation. Unfortunately, we had to agree to disagree in the end. Out of respect for the union, we will keep the matters confidential unless they misconstrue the events of that morning. We always say #TransparencyWins, so we will document our discussions on this blog. In short, the leaders of Local 22 are decent guys and they've got a job to do. We also believe we're doing the right thing, which is what makes this so complex. There is no bad guy in all of this.
We have been getting questions about the Local 22 protesters in front of some of our stores. It's been happening since Fall 2016. We have been putting letters in our stores explaining the situation, but we want to also echo the message on the internet since some of you asked about it while driving by. We always pride ourselves on transparency, so here we go! =)
The letter to the public (posted below) explains it in more detail, but Local 22 is a local carpenter's union isn't happy that one of our contractors, Bali Construction, doesn't always use union carpenter labor. They have done this to other businesses around town. See examples here. You might recognize them as the Grim Reaper, Rat, or Thumbs Down sign guys. We have reached out to them and talked to their staff countless times. We know Tim, Carlos, Conrad, etc. It's been nearly 40+ days of 5-hour, 2-person shifts from them during the winter, so we have even instructed our team to offer them hot drinks in the cold weather. For the record, we understand their plight. We just believe they channel their resources toward the wrong people.
We never claim to be perfect or always make the most popular decision, but one thing is true-- we believe #TransparencyWins (our hashtag). The situation with Local 22 is unfortunate because we feel deeply that they are picking a fight with a small business. And that's not right. As most of the public knows by now, we don't franchise. We turned down $1.5M-$2.0M in institutional VC funding. We don't come from wealthy families. We are just two guys who turned a passion project into a movement.
As a son of two union workers myself, I get the struggle. My dad is a retired MUNI operator who had to fight for his benefits. There are a lot of messy politics and economics that we won't bore you with, but if you are reading this, please understand that Boba Guys is committed to the community. All of our involvement and donations in the community, White House, and ACLU aren't just lip-service. You can see it all over the press and our social media. Or ask us in person. We are in our stores 24/7!
We truly believe few companies are run like us. We model our company after Patagonia, Everlane, and In 'N Out, who are all known for their civic duty. It's why we gave up our cushy careers to bridge cultures with our unique experience. With stores on both coasts and fans worldwide, we understand the unique privilege and platform that we're blessed with.
We appreciate your interest in this matter and finding this unlisted blog post. =) Thanks for reading!
note: as we noted earlier and in our email, we have reached out to Local 22 to talk. We fundamentally disagree on the politics of the situation, but we agree something should be done. We ask that you kindly send them a reminder note at email@example.com or call them at (415) 355-1322.
Have a nice day and pleasant tomorrow!
Andrew (and Bin), The Boba Guys
--- LETTER TO THE PUBLIC POSTED BELOW ---
A Letter to Our Team Members and Neighbors
Boba Guys and Gals,
Sorry for any inconvenience. Here’s what’s going on.
The protesters are trying to get us to force our old General Contractor, Bali Construction, to use union carpenters (i.e. subs). (We didn’t even use Bali on this store!) Despite our relentless commitment to be responsible employers, we are still bound by reality in SF. I (Andrew) even empathize with their plight since I am the children of two lifetime union workers. My dad is a retired MUNI operator. Their fight is with the Planning Dept, not with us. They set the rules on who to use. We use market-value licensed contractors, who sometimes are not union. It’s what most small businesses like us do.
The protestors forget we are self-funded and not backed by a big VC like the big coffee companies or franchised bubble tea shops. Bin and I are obviously not from wealthy families sitting on piles of cash. We're just two scrappy dudes. Just look at our first store in the Mission. It’s scrappy!
As a member of the White House API Initiative, board members on local non-profits, and countless SMB councils, we want to take this time to explain why big-money businesses will take over SF. (We have already voiced our concerns to local congressmen and district supervisors.)
If they protest small guys like us, then only the big chains like ____________________ can build a financially-sustainable business in SF. The big guys are the only ones who can afford the union premium. Not us small businesses. We are known for #RadicalTransparency, so here is a tangible and real-life example: if our millwork is $80K with non-union work, it is roughly $120K with union labor. We would not be building in SF if that was the case. We would divert our capital to other cities or regions.
The savings is what gives our team higher wages (we pride ourselves on having one of the best wages in the ENTIRE industry), our $2500 donation to the ACLU, participation the Arts, employee perks and bonuses, generous community donations, and employee profit sharing (which NO ONE in our industry at our size does). We put our money where our mouth is.
We only have four stores at this point in SF. We commend them for their conviction, but they are picking a fight with the wrong business. They have been doing this to us since Fall 2016. We have a proven track record of community involvement and transparent business practices. Just look at this memo. =) We’re all here to fight the good fight, but let’s address the root issue. If you have the time and support our fight, please email the union at firstname.lastname@example.org. Their number is (415) 355-1322. Please be kind to them. We believe in civil discourse, but they need to know they are fighting the wrong people. Thanks!
The Boba Guys