After a yearlong push, workers at Colectivo Coffee appear to have won their bid to unionize. Employees at the Wisconsin- and Chicago-based coffee chain voted in favor of unionizing by a final tally of 106 to 99 and will be joining the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, making them the largest cafe union in the United States.
As reported by Eater Chicago, the effort came to a conclusion on Monday, when the National Labor Relations Board announced the outcome. Nearly 400 workers are expected to be represented.
But it was not easy. In March, the initial vote count ended in a tie, with seven votes still in dispute. Per another Eater Chicago article, the coffee company’s co-founders and CEO hired the Labor Relations Institute, a “union avoidance” firm out of Oklahoma whose practices some critics have referred to as “union busting” tactics. At Colectivo, these practices included “periodic waves of unexpected firings, mandatory meetings with anti-union speakers, and schedules changing rapidly with little notice have decimated morale in recent months.”
In response to these claims, Colectivo Director of Human Resources LaShonda Hill stated that, “We have said from the very beginning that Colectivo is not an anti-union company and is not against our co-workers’ right to unionize. It is important to us that this process be conducted fairly and in adherence to the law. This claim of being excluded from meetings is currently being reviewed as part of an NLRB filing and we expect it to be dismissed just as previous claims brought by the IBEW against Colectivo have been dismissed.”
Now, with the matter ostensibly settled, leadership at Colectivo state they will abide by it and “bargain in good faith.” (Not before penning an open later stating that “a majority of [their employees] did not vote in favor of unionization” and that “fewer than 100 of [their] current 440 [employees] voted for this union.”)
As historic as the Colectivo union is in its own terms, In These Times editor Miles Kampf-Lassin states that it paves the way for “more organizing efforts at bigger chains.” Colectivo workers now join the likes of Buffalo’s SPoT Coffee (formerly the largest coffee union) and New York’s Gimme! Coffee as coffee professionals who have successfully unionized.