When Camila Coddou found out her former employer, who apparently co-owned a chain of coffee shops, had a politically charged YouTube channel called #MeNeither, the feminist felt compelled to expose her. And now she’s paying for it.
Coddou worked as an operations manager for Ristretto Roasters in Portland, Ore., from 2013 to 2018. She says the coffee company and cafe chain is co-owed by Nancy Rommelmann and her husband, Din Johnson.
Coddou discovered Rommelmann’s YouTube page on Jan. 7. The channel has three videos. They consist of discussions between Rommelmann, an author and journalist, and Leah McSweeney, also a journalist. Coddou was disturbed by the content. “To see your boss deny the experiences of sexual assault survivors in a public forum is pretty disheartening,” Coddou tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
“When these videos were shared with me by a current concerned employee, I knew it was my duty to inform the public about these videos,” Coddou says. She immediately shared them on her social media channels and alerted local media outlets. She said she had the support of 30 current and former Ristretto employees.
Two days later, on Jan. 9, she was dismissed from her new bookkeeping job because Ristretto is one of her employer’s clients, Coddou says. “After I saw Rommelmann’s YouTube channel and shared the public information on my personal social media profile, I received a call from the bookkeeper saying she could no longer bring me on,” Coddou explains. “She stated that what I had done in sharing the public YouTube channel was slander and that in the legal paperwork — which I hadn’t yet signed — there was a specific clause regarding slander against a current client of the business.” The bookkeeper did not respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.
While speaking out against Rommelmann’s YouTube channel has cost her, Coddou won’t back down.
“As a queer women of color who has worked in the largely cis-male-dominated field of specialty coffee for over a decade, I make it my personal responsibility as consumer to know who I am supporting when I visit a business,” she says. “My goal isn’t to negatively impact Ristretto or to lead a boycott, or to have dialogue with Rommelmann regarding her opinions. My goal is to give people information so that they can then make their own choices as to where they spend their money.”
She was originally shocked by the videos, in which the two women discuss “toxic femininity”; attack Harvey Weinstein’s accusers Asia Argento and Rose McGowan, calling them a “succubus” and “fame-eater” respectively; and defend Louis C.K.’s quick comeback. “For the most part I valued my professional relationship with Nancy when we did work together through the years,” she says. “I had some inkling about her political beliefs. I knew that there were fundamental differences in our belief systems, so I did my best not to engage in political discourse with her.”
However, Rommelmann denies that she was ever Coddou’s superior. In fact, she denies any official involvement in her husband’s company. “When the first RR opened in 2005, I was very involved: baked, cleaned and handled back-end stuff,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “The company was seen as a mom-and-pop business, including, though we repeatedly corrected them, that was I was part-owner of the business. I was not, I never have been. … I would ALWAYS say, ‘This is Din’s business.’”
That wasn’t made clear to the employees, Coddou says. “Nancy was always presented to me as one of the owners of Ristretto Roasters, from the day I started to the day I left,” Coddou recalls. “Nancy made decisions ranging from what sorts of pastries the cafes would carry to when it was time to close down one of our locations.” She admits that she never saw any official paperwork identifying Rommelmann as a co-owner of Ristretto Roasters but adds that “to say that she was anything but extensively involved in running the business is untrue. All cafe staff deferred to her authority, and she and I had countless conversations regarding the running of Ristretto.” She points to an article that identified Rommelmann as a co-owner and a 2013 Instagram post of Rommelmann’s that shows her name on Ristretto Roasters’ liquor license.
“I do not work for Ristretto, the business my husband founded and owns,” Rommelmann insists. “The Oregonian found a state registry paper from 2005 that listed me as a manager … that’s been updated with the state,” she explains. “At some point way back when, we must have filed papers that required some sort of title; hence, I put manager. I’m not and never have been.”
For these reasons, Johnson feels it is unfair to hold Rommelmann’s political beliefs and YouTube videos against his business. In response to Coddou’s campaign, Johnson wrote a letter to staff saying, “Nancy is neither an owner nor employee of Ristretto. … Ristretto remains politically neutral. … Trying to involve us in a fight we are not in is unfair to our employees, and to the business.”
Coddou left Ristretto last year because of the company’s “pervasive culture of poor communication and lack of accountability.” She didn’t feel supported by her supposed “direct superiors,” Rommelmann and Johnson. Rommelmann said she thought Coddou was “increasingly unhappy” toward the end because she didn’t see Johnson as “aligned with her politics.”
Whatever her reason for leaving, Coddou was about to start her new job when this all happened. “During my time with Ristretto, I worked closely with our independently contracted bookkeeper. She and I had an excellent working relationship, so shortly after I left Ristretto she asked me if I would be interested in working for her,” Coddou recalls. “I said yes, and we of course both agreed I would deal with all her clients except Ristretto.” They met a few times to discuss onboarding and future plans for the business. “We had a few of these planning meetings, but I hadn’t signed any of the official legal documents pertaining to the work.”
Fast-forward to today, and she’s out of work for being a whistleblower. “Rather than hold Rommelmann accountable for her poor behavior, I am being reprimanded for bringing it to light,” she wrote on Instagram.
But she doesn’t regret her decision. “A lot of people are thanking me for coming forward and sharing this information more widely, but for me, it was just so clearly what had to be done. … I’m just so happy most people are falling on the right side of this thing.”
And while this could affect her husband’s business (Yahoo Lifestyle spoke to another former Ristretto employee who resigned last night because of this), Rommelmann also has no regrets. And she’s moving forward with her series. “The whole point of the YouTube channel is to get different voices and viewpoints in the room about uncomfortable subjects,” she says. “It is absolutely not the case that I think the #MeToo movement is for attention-seekers,” she insists. “If you don’t toe someone’s line, you are marked as an enemy to the cause. If you’re asking me if I believe all people should be treated equally and with dignity, my God, of course. May this will be the direction the movement is going.”
She does admit, however, that #MeNeither might not be the best name.
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
- Asia Argento called actor who accused her of sexual assault ‘my son, my love’ on Instagram
- Megyn Kelly accused of victim shaming after saying that believing every woman is ‘absurd’
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