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Anne Hughes Coffee

The coffee shop in the downtown store was a gathering place with tables often piled with books.  It was Anne’s Coffee shop where shoppers and  employees could get coffee, (employees at a discount} and relax with a book or chat.  Coffee, sweet rolls and a light lunch were served.  It was a place employees frequently took their break.  

I knew Anne Hughes from years before when she ran a Bed and Breakfast in Northwest Portland.  I met her when I worked at a bookstore, 23rd Avenue Books.  She was a regular customer at the bookstore.  When I was married in the early 1980’s my parents and wife’s parents, from out of town, stayed at Anne’s Bed and Breakfast.

The idea the union drive had was to set a table at Anne’s coffee shop where employees could meet and talk, the pros and cons of forming a union at Powells.  A member of the organizing committee could sit at a table and invite co-workers to join them to talk union and answer questions.  This of course was on their own time, off the clock and voluntary.

I don’t remember who spoke to Anne about this arrangement but it was ok with her and so a schedule was established at the tables, volunteers recruited, and our plan for the informal chats initiated.  I observed a few of the chats but the idea at the table was an employee to employee chat,  an opportunity to answer questions, assess union support and get signed authorization cards from supporters.

Not long after we began the coffee shop chats I heard that Michael Powell had expressed his dislike of our chats in the coffee shop.  Later I heard that he confronted Anne and wanted to know why this was happening.  She told Michael that the tables and chats were between employees and she had no problem with the arrangement. She added that she wanted the coffee shop to be a place for discussion.  Michael Powell was having none of it and angrily asked Anne if she would allow Nazis to sit and chat in her shop.  Shocked at this suggestion Anne reminded Michael that the people at the tables were his employees.

Anne’s Coffee shop was one of the unfortunate losses of the organizing drive.  I believe the loss was due to this union practice of using the coffee shop as a meeting place for employees. When the renewal of the contract with Powells for the Coffee shop came due the requirements for renewal necessitated a significant investment by the vendor.  The investment in the physical space for the coffee shop didn’t make economic sense.  Renewing the lease was not attractive and therefore Anne’s shop and her lease for the space was not renewed.  Another vendor moved into the space.