Graham Kilmer

Colectivo Workers Organizing A Union

Effort seeks to organize company's 21 locations in Milwaukee, Chicago and Madison.

By - Aug 17th, 2020 06:12 pm
Colectivo Coffee in Riverwest. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Colectivo Coffee in Riverwest. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The workers at Colectivo Coffee are attempting to organize a labor union at the popular coffee company.

Union supporters in the company are attempting to organize hundreds of workers at Colectivo with the help of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 494. Baristas, delivery drivers, Troubadour bakery workers and coffee roasters would all be represented by the union.

A handful of workers have been discussing unionizing for about a year now, at least since Dan Hurdle took over as the company’s Chief Executive Officer and announced a fast-paced expansion of the company, Colectivo employee Hillary Laskonis told Urban Milwaukee.

Colectivo has 13 cafes in Milwaukee, and eight more in Madison and Chicago. Once the company’s expansion began, changes in operations were implemented and plans for multiple new locations were launched. Workers were stunned by the changes, and decided they wanted involvement in company decisions.

Then the pandemic hit. And workers felt uncomfortable going into work. Laskonis said the cafe workers came together with a petition that got them two weeks paid time off. But Colectivo’s production and warehouse workers had to keep going. Ultimately, some workers were laid off when the pandemic slowed production.

“It was really in solidarity with our production workers,” Laskonis said, that a group of workers from multiple cafes and production started organizing in earnest and reached out to IBEW for representation. Laskonis’ Father is Charles Laskonis, the IBEW state organizing coordinator for Illinois.

Workers are circulating and signing authorization cards, which show you support the union negotiating on your behalf. If a majority of workers sign the cards, then an employer can voluntarily recognize the union as a collective bargaining representative. The organizers went public with their organizing efforts last week and “the progress has been pretty rapid” since then, Laskonis said. If an employer refuses to recognize a union after this “card-check” then a secret-ballot election must be held, overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. So far, Laskonis said, management has not attempted to interfere with the organizing efforts.

“Most Colectivo employees really love Colectivo,” Laskonis said. “That collective culture is already there, it’s just not represented by a union yet.”

In the last year, as the company started to change workers were under increased pressure in the cafes and production. In the cafes, the company developed a new app and online ordering, and changed menus “constantly”, added new beverages and a printing system, Laskonis said, which “added more labor” to the workday. When a new card reading system was implemented, workers were notified their credit card tips would be withheld for a month while the company taxed and distributed them. They eventually received them, but it took a month, Laskonis said. And workers in the production facilities were forced to increase efficiency and production to “accommodate this aggressive expansion in all our markets.”

It all comes down to “little decisions being made at the top,” she said, without much consideration for how they would impact workers. Which helped build support for the union.

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Categories: Business, Economics

3 thoughts on “Colectivo Workers Organizing A Union”

  1. B says:


  2. Dixie and Rick Deines says:

    Transparency in public from the company, which includes the employees and management, could precede moving quickly to tsharp lines of division. What an opportunity to demonstrate that ‘power’ is at the center of the table! Colectivo has shown over the years through sensitive and creative at every level, that the public is well served. The playbook of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ does not seem like the place to start. Mutual sharing through patient and clearly understood positions can be both respectful and productive. A sincere attempt at approaching this using methods of civil conversation may yield results that benefit the whole community.–
    Rick Deines, Facilitator and Board Member of the Zeidler Group

  3. blurondo says:

    “Colectivo has shown over the years through sensitive and creative at every level, that the public is well served.”

    “A handful of workers have been discussing unionizing for about a year now, at least since Dan Hurdle took over as the company’s Chief Executive Officer …”

    It appears that employess don’t feel as well served since the change at the top. Collective barganing and representation also benefit the whole community.

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