☕ Paid coffee breaks started in 1940s Denver
BY PEYTON GARCIA | @CITYCASTDENVER
READY FOR A COFFEE BREAK?
While I don’t have much of a taste for coffee, I do rely on at least two cups of chai tea with oat milk to get me through my work day. In fact, I’ve got my hands on a steaming mug of the stuff as I write this. Honestly, my productivity is directly linked to my caffeine consumption. (Hey, this newsletter doesn’t write itself, you know.) And I’d be willing to bet that’s the case for most of you reading this. Employers know this, too. Why do you think coffee (albeit, usually bad coffee) is almost always available free of charge in any company break room?
It’s the very reason you’re entitled to paid 10-minute breaks during the day, according to coffee lore. In fact, the story is pretty interesting, and it all started right here in the Mile High.
It was 1940s Denver, and a man named Phil Greinetz owned a local company making neckties called Los Wigwam Weavers. He staffed the downtown factory with young, able-bodied men to produce colorful, striped ties. But when World War II struck, his tie-makers were drafted. Greinetz was forced to fill their positions with middle-aged women. They could make the product well enough, but Greinetz felt they lacked the stamina of their predecessors.
He called a staff meeting and asked them what could be done. Their answer: give us breaks for coffee. He did, and productivity went through the roof. So Greinetz took it a step further and implemented mandatory 15-minute coffee breaks twice a day.
All was good and well until an inspector with the U.S. Department of Labor stopped by and saw Greinetz wasn’t paying the women when they were taking these coffee breaks. Greinetz was summoned to Colorado’s U.S. District Court, where ultimately the judge ruled that Greinetz had to pay for his employees’ coffee breaks because his company was directly benefiting from them.
Today, roughly 70 years later, Colorado labor laws require employers to give their employees a compensated 10-minute break for every four hours of work. And although under federal law, short “coffee breaks” are not required to be given, they are required to be paid when they are. I don’t know that there is an actual correlation between those laws and the U.S. v. Greinetz case, but personally, I like to think it was a precedent set by the coffee-drinking working women of Los Wigwam Weavers 😉
And while I imagine most employers aren’t forcing their employees to drink coffee these days… you still find yourself at the coffee machine anyways, don’t you?
Interested in more on this story? Check out my source materials:
☕ Capitalism’s Favorite Drug – The Atlantic
☕ The Bitter Truth About Your Coffee Break – Medium
☕ The Very Capitalist History of the American Coffee Break – Eater
TAKE OUR SURVEY, WIN A PRIZE
Do you love this newsletter? Have thoughts, suggestions, or opinions for making it better? Take our super quick survey and let us know!
You can enter to win two FREE tickets to see Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad LIVE at Paramount Theatre on April 17.
Plus, you’ll also win my eternal gratitude 🙏
TODAY ON THE PODCAST 🎶
“How can music festivals be a tool for social good? How can music festivals change the music industry?” — Youth on Record executive director Jami Duffy
The Underground Music Showcase is Fun. But Can It Be a Tool for Social Good?
News broke last week that local music-centered nonprofit Youth on Record threw down a million bucks to own a stake in the Underground Music Showcase, one of Denver’s biggest annual music festivals. But this is far from any run-of-the-mill music biz deal: YOR’s Executive Director, Jami Duffy, sees the UMS as a platform to propel a “musicians’ middle class” in Denver and beyond.
Today on the show, Duffy chats with host Bree Davies about her long-term plans to turn a staple Denver music fest into a pipeline for jobs for artists, while also cultivating a better experience for music fans.
PLACE YOUR AD RIGHT HERE! 🪧
City Cast Denver reaches the Denverites who care most about what’s going on in town. Our readers are the dedicated residents who live and breathe all things Denver — they are looking for new restaurants, attending local events, and proud to be politically and socially engaged.
So get YOUR message out to our city’s best audience right now in the City Cast Denver newsletter or on the City Cast Denver podcast. Learn more at citycast.fm/advertise or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DID YOU GET MOVED TO A NEW CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT?
If you live in Auraria, Country Club, Cherry Creek, Central Business District, Rosedale, Valverde, or Union Station — then, yes, you did. Denver City Council officially adopted new district boundaries Tuesday night, and only one district remained completely untouched. The new districts will go into effect starting with the 2023 elections. Here’s exactly what changed 👉 [Denverite]
MORE NEWS YOU SHOULD KNOW
🚧 Want a say in city zoning laws? Denver’s Board of Adjustment for Zoning Appeals (aka the people who decide when exceptions can be made to city zoning codes) is seeking new board members. The application form is open, and they’re looking for diverse candidates who will reflect the community they serve. [DenverGov]
- 🔎 Get some background: The board recently experienced a pretty extensive overhaul, promising to update their procedures and protocols from the 1950s. We unpacked the whole thing in this City Cast Denver episode: “How an Obscure Zoning Board got Reformed (and Why it Matters)”
- 🙋 Throw your hat in the ring: You can apply to join the board right here.
🏓 In case you’ve been worried… Arslan Guney, aka “The Pickleball Mayor” of Central Park, will not be facing charges of criminal mischief from the Denver District Attorney’s office. The DA is instead encouraging the Central Park rec center to work it out with 71-year-old Guney through a mediator. [Denverite]
- 🥒 Catch up: An arrest warrant for Guney was issued last week after he drew pickleball boundaries on the rec center’s basketball court in permanent marker. The rec center is claiming more than $9,000 in damages. Guney says it was all a big misunderstanding.
🚨 Police Chief Paul Pazen is feeling the pressure: Last week, a federal jury found the Denver Police Department failed to properly train and supervise its officers in responding to the George Floyd protests of 2020, resulting in excessive use of force that violated demonstrators’ rights. Now, some people are calling for the resignation of Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen, including Robert Davis, head of the local task force to reimagine policing, and Elisabeth Epps, a local activist, attorney, and the lead plaintiff in the recent federal lawsuit. [Axios Denver]