Earlier this week, employees at Colectivo Coffee voted to unionize, a move that will make it the largest unionized coffee brand in the United States, according to reports.
Workers at the Wisconsin-based chain voted to unionize 106-99. Colectivo Coffee’s union will include approximately 440 employees. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) will be the group’s negotiating representative.
“Colectivo Coffee workers have worked diligently to have the opportunity to have their voices heard,” Dean Warsh, IBEW Local 494 Commercial Director, said in a statement. “Now that the ballots have been counted and once certified, IBEW Local 494 will begin to move forward with negotiations polls and plans to help them with their first negotiated contract.
The vote was passed after a year of conflict between organizers and management. In an election in April, the decision was split with seven contested votes remaining before the vote was finally passed this week.
Colectivo, which has 20 locations in Madison, Wisconsin, Chicago and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, said it was disappointed with the outcome and that a majority of its employees did not want to unionize. The company said several votes had been counted for people who had already announced they were leaving the organization. The brand estimates that less than 100 of the current 440 workers voted for the union.
“We don’t think these former coworkers should have been allowed to have their voice heard in organizing in an organization where they had no intention of working,” Colectivo said in a letter. “The result is the result of a process that took place last spring and our employee census is dynamic. ”
Still, the company said it would “play by the rules and negotiate in good faith.”
“We will not allow this to change the remarkable Colectivo experience for our customers,” Colectivo continued. “We will remain intensely focused on our customers and the generous and responsible approach we have always taken as employers will remain unchanged. We are committed to continuing to pay our workers at the top of the market and to actively support and engage in our community. “
The coffee chain was criticized last year by some employees who claimed individuals had been made redundant in retaliation for expressing pro-union sentiments. In response, Colectivo told The Times, “We and our management team recognize the complexity of National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and have turned to legal professionals to ensure that the company and its colleagues are fully informed. “
Contract negotiations will likely begin once organizers finish probing employee priorities in the coming weeks.
This unionization could mark a key change in the restaurant industry. Historically, restaurant and café workers have been excluded from union conversations. Previously, Buffalo-based Spot Coffee was the largest unionized cafe with around 130 members.
“We hope that the courage and hard work that the workers at Colectivo Coffee put into this victory will inspire others in the hospitality / service industry to organize a union in their workplace,” said Warsh . “We ask Colectivo owners to negotiate in good faith with their employees once the election has been certified. “