Former employees of Adda Coffee & Tea House said they have been upset about a lot of things since the chain’s owner abruptly announced he was closing all four shop locations around the city last week, a day after the workers went public with their intent to form a union. 

They said they will miss their jobs and, of course, their paychecks. 

Even more, though, the workers said they’ll miss their colleagues and the communities that they have been able to create at the shops over the years. 

One decision they do not regret, however, was their choice to form a union at their workplace.

“This is not a story of failure for us,” said Chris Gratsch, the former lead barista at Adda’s Shadyside location. “Our union is still strong. We are united as ever, and we will not stop until justice is served.”

Gratsch and other Adda workers held a press conference in frigid temperatures Wednesday morning outside of Atithi Studios — a Sharpsburg art studio run by Adda owner Sukanta Nag — to demand that their former boss give them a month of severance and other pay that they said they were owed.

Nag said in an email Wednesday that his former employees would be compensated for all of the shifts that were scheduled when Adda closed, meaning that they would be paid through Sunday. He also said that Adda would work with its former employees if they needed references for their next job.  

He also reiterated comments he’s made over the past week that “the decision to close was entirely based on the financial viability of the company.” 

A message posted to the Adda Instagram account on Wednesday said, “Our final determination was solely and entirely based on the financial viability of the business. The timing has been unfortunate but we could no longer continue losing money. Our priority from the beginning was focused on serving the community and less on revenue and profit, and we certainly had hoped and planned for it to grow into a healthy sustainable business. Sadly, we discussed closing several times in the last few years, and we held out hope that we would find a way to make the business work. It was just not feasible.” 

Although they loved their jobs, the Adda workers said they decided to form a union to improve their working conditions and safety. 

Chris Gratsch, the former lead batista at Adda Coffee & Tea House’s Shadyside location, addresses the crowd at a press conference Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2023, outside of Atithi Studios in Sharpsburg. (Andrew Goldstein/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Sierra Young, the lead barista at Adda’s Garfield location, said there were times when a single employee would have to run the shop for an entire eight-plus hour shift, including serving and cleaning up after every sale, then sweeping and mopping at the end of the day.

“This made working at Adda even more challenging than some hard labor jobs I’ve done in the past, including being part of the stagehands union here in Pittsburgh and the set nurses union in Los Angeles,” Young said.

She also said that the workers had asked Nag to hire a manager for each shop, which never happened. 

“Garfield, Shadyside, Downtown and North Side were different communities, and the baristas at Adda believed each store needed to have its own team and manager,” she said. “We asked for that for over a year before realizing that unless we formed a democracy within us workers, it couldn’t be done.”

In a phone interview Tuesday, Wendell Young, president of UFCW Local 1776, which helped organize the Adda workers, said the union was evaluating its legal options. He said he had concerns over some issues about pay and meetings that management held before the decision to close the shops, but he declined to go into more detail.  

Wendell Young said he was “very confident” that the union could help find work for all of the approximately two dozen employees who lost their jobs. Meanwhile, he said the union would be watching to make sure that Nag does not attempt any tricks, such as trying to reopen the shops under the facade of different ownership.

“We’re going to be a presence in front of this guy,” Young said. “He’s very active in the community, sits on a number of different boards, has other businesses. We’re going to make sure he feels some of the pain that he’s helped dish out here, at least from a public relations point of view.”   

In addition to the about 20 Adda workers and supporters, numerous local elected officials attended the event, including Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato, Lt. Gov. Austin Davis, state Rep. La’Tasha D. Mayes and state Sen. Jim Brewster.  

The Adda workers said they were so surprised by the closing that they left personal items inside the shops, which they hope Nag will allow them to retrieve soon. None of the workers have heard from Nag since he sent them the message through an internal message system that the stores all would be closing. 

They said Adda had recently hired more employees, and shops continued to get shipments of food and supplies until Friday, the day of the closure. Some delivery drivers were surprised to find the shops closed, Adda employees said. The workers told Nag about their unionization at a team building meeting he scheduled a day before he announced he would shutter the shops. 

While they were sad about losing their jobs and the communities they had built in their shops, the Adda workers said they still believed they made the right decision to unionize. 

“We are all of one mind. We have no regrets. And even knowing the outcome, we wouldn’t have done a single thing differently,” Gratsch said.

“Except,” he added, “we would have taken an extra moment with each of the community members that brightened our days so much and that we loved to tell them how much we will miss them.”

Former Adda employees and supporters listen to speakers during a press conference Wednesday, Jan. 17, 202, outside of Atithi Studios in Sharpsburg. (Andrew Goldstein/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Andrew writes about education and more for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Andrew Goldstein

Andrew writes about education and more for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at