Colectivo Union Election Finishes
NLRB to tabulate results April 6th. Could create largest unionized coffee chain in U.S.
As a union election at Colectivo Coffee comes to end, so too does the campaign that began in earnest more than eight months ago.
For the past two weeks, the workers have been filling out and mailing their ballots for the election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Tuesday, March 30th was the final day that workers had to get their ballot to the NLRB regional office.
They had had enough of “little decisions being made at the top” with little regard for how they affected the day to day worker, explained one of the organizers, Hillary Laskonis, in August, and they decided they wanted a seat at the table.
For months they’ve attempted to organize the non-management employees of 18 cafes in three cities along with delivery drivers, coffee roasters and workers at the Colectivo-owned Troubadour Bakery. If successful, the effort would turn Colectivo into the largest unionized coffee chain in the nation, according to a story by In These Times. The story also reported that Colectivo has let workers go in retaliation for their support of the union.
The pandemic has been a difficult time for the company, which has closed down several cafes as the decline in business ate into revenue. Recently, OnMilwaukee reported that the company’s Prospect Avenue location will reopen this summer, and the Pabst Theater Group has already announced shows for the venue there called The Back Room at Colectivo.
From the beginning the owners and management have opposed the union. Shortly after the organizers went public, they sent a letter to their employees explaining why “they strongly oppose the unionization efforts.”
By October the company started holding meetings between its employees and consultants that specialize in helping organizations avoid unions and, should a union election occur, to win it.
The consultants were contracted through a firm called the Labor Relations Institute, based in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. The firm boasts that it “literally wrote the book in countering union organizing campaigns.”
They cost hundreds of dollars an hour, and the company said they were there to inform employees of their rights. But union organizers accused the consultants of misleading, even lying to workers about unions and unionization.
The union organizers have maintained that the union will not cripple the business and organized a “reverse boycott” in November 2020 asking supporters to continue to patronize the company and order their coffee “IBEWstrong.” Supporters have continued this practice to the present. State Senator Chris Larson posted a picture on March 26th holding a Colectivo cup with “STRONG” written on the label.
In February, the organizers and IBEW 494 filed a petition for a union election with the NLRB. Organizers had repeatedly told Urban Milwaukee they would not seek an election until they had a solid majority of workers’ authorization cards returned. These cards grant a labor organization the authority to represent you, but federal labor law does not require your employer to recognize this authority — necessitating the union election.
- County Board of Supervisors Congratulate Colectivo Workers on Successful Union Election - Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors - Aug 27th, 2021
- Supervisor Czarnezki Calls on Colectivo Ownership to Bargain with Employees in Good Faith - Sup. Joe Czarnezki - Aug 27th, 2021
- Congratulations Colectivo workers - Milwaukee Common Council - Aug 25th, 2021
- Colectivo Workers Win Union Election - Graham Kilmer - Aug 23rd, 2021
- Colectivo Union Election Is a Tie Vote - Graham Kilmer - Apr 6th, 2021
- Colectivo Union Election Finishes - Graham Kilmer - Mar 31st, 2021
- IBEW Local 494 Statement on Colectivo’s Union-Busting Meetings - International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 494 - Feb 17th, 2021
- Colectivo Workers Petition for Union Election - Graham Kilmer - Feb 16th, 2021
- Colectivo Closes Prospect Avenue Cafe - Graham Kilmer - Jan 18th, 2021
- Murphy’s Law: Local Unions Confront The Wealthy - Bruce Murphy - Nov 30th, 2020
Read more about Union Effort at Colectivo here