The Resistance We Want to See

Wrecking BallToday, we highlight the subversive, sacrificial decision made by Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters in San Francisco. They turned down a $40,000 contract for a large conference because the company contracts with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to help with the agency’s recruiting and “drive efficiencies around how U.S. border activities are managed.” Below are a few excerpts from a recent article in The San Francisco Chronicle.

Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters gets opportunities to brew thousands of cups of coffee at massive conferences only a few times a year. So when George P. Johnson Experience Marketing, which contracts with Salesforce to provide catering services for Dreamforce, reached out to Wrecking Ball owners Nick Cho and Trish Rothgeb, the two said they eagerly entered into discussion.

“For us as a coffee roaster, I can say that $40,000 would pay for our raw coffee supply for about two months,” Cho wrote in an email.

Dreamforce takes place Sept. 25-28 this year. Last year, according to Salesforce figures, 161,000 people registered for the San Francisco conference. The proposed contract was to provide free coffee to attendees, and Wrecking Ball was assured that lines regularly stretched into the hundreds of people. Cho and Rothgeb said the two companies talked about the previous subcontractor’s fee of $36,000 and agreed on a cap of $40,000.

As the Wrecking Ball co-CEOs finalized their proposal, news broke on July 19 that the nonprofit Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services was rejecting a $250,000 donation from Salesforce, which is headquartered in San Francisco, because of its relationship with the customs agency. CBP has been responsible for enforcing the Trump administration’s policy of separating the children of asylum-seekers from their parents, which the administration has since rescinded.

Salesforce announced in March that it had contracted with CBP to help with the agency’s recruiting and “drive efficiencies around how U.S. border activities are managed.”

…Cho said that the couple has felt a personal connection to the U.S. government’s actions: He immigrated to the United States as a toddler, and Rothgeb’s father was born in the Philippines.

“Are we going to, as a lot of people do, turn a blind eye and say the world is dirty, nobody’s perfect, or is this a situation where we reject a $40,000 opportunity and make a statement?” Cho said.

The two have a small cafe on Union Street but a large social media presence, often taking the coffee industry to task around discrimination and racist or sexist imagery. They regularly travel around the world for trainings and competitions.

“Because we do occupy a thought-leader position, there’s more attention on what we do, and therefore there’s a burden of leadership,” Cho said.

“Business is going to have to be the resistance we want to see,” Rothgeb said. “That’s the truth. You can’t get anything done unless business is going to take a stand.”

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