Erik Gunn and Isiah Holmes

Union, Supporters Demand Colectivo Begin Negotiations

Coffee company has filed a second appeal over the union election

By , Wisconsin Examiner - Jan 13th, 2022 12:03 pm

Stephanie Bloomingdale, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, addresses a rally outside Colectivo’s outlet in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood in support of workers who voted for a union at the coffee chain. Isiah Holmes/ Wisconsin Examiner

A band of pro-union employees of Colectivo Coffee and their supporters marched on the company’s Milwaukee headquarters Wednesday, demanding that management end its litigation seeking to overturn the 2021 union election at the coffeehouse chain.

Acting Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson, who along with several other alders had endorsed the union organizing drive as it got underway in 2020, reiterated his support in his new role as the city’s chief executive as the group rallied outside the Colectivo location in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, which also houses the business offices for the three-state chain

“We want to make sure that everybody has a chance to thrive in this community,” Johnson said. “And now I’m here with you guys today in my new capacity as mayor, continuing to push on.”

In August, a National Labor Relations Board official concluded that a final tally of eligible ballots cast in the late winter of 2021 showed that a majority of workers for Colectivo, which has outlets in Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago, had voted for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) to represent them. Since then, however, Colectivo’s owners have put off contract negotiations with a series of appeals.

In December, the director of the NLRB’s Minneapolis regional office, which includes Milwaukee, certified the union, setting the stage for talks to begin, but the owners filed another appeal, this time with the labor board itself in Washington, D.C.

To protest the delays Wednesday morning, employees who were part of the union organizing campaign took a petition that they said contained 2,200 signatures from supporters to the Riverwest outlet.

“It is a very bad response from management that they still have not started the bargaining process,” said Milwaukee County Labor Council President Pam Fendt as the group rallied outside the shop. “Colectivo management has been filing appeals to the NLRB that have no merit. It is clear that they are only seeking to stall the certification process. Their employees have spoken, they want to continue to formally work together to collectively address conditions at work. It’s past time for management to come to the table.”

Speakers also included former and current Colectivo workers, some of whom alleged they were the subject of retaliation for union activism.

While the campaign that Colectivo mounted to oppose unionization is not unusual for non-union employers in the U.S. who are confronted with  organizing drives, the company’s stance drew widespread attention and criticism in light of the coffee chain’s cultivation of a progressive image from its founding, originally under the name of Alterra Coffee.

Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Stephanie Bloomingdale noted as much, directing her comments at Colectivo’s owners, Lincoln Fowler, Ward Fowler and Paul Miller, while speaking to the rally participants.

“We stood with your values, we stood with your fair trade policies on making sure that the workers in Central America had good working conditions, we stood with your environmental practices,” Bloomingdale said. “And this coffee shop was more than just coffee — it was an idea, with Alterra and now with Colectivo. But right now, Paul, Ward, Lincoln, you are betraying that brand. You are betraying that ideal.”

Calling Milwaukee “a union town,” Bloomingdale reiterated the call for the company to “fairly negotiate” with its employees and the union.

The rally culminated with the attempt by participants to present the petition to Colectivo’s owners or top management. Managers at the store said they were in a meeting and unavailable, and took the petitions to deliver to company officials.

Union backers rally to urge Colectivo to drop appeals, start contract talks was originally published by Wisconsin Examiner. 


Categories: Business

3 thoughts on “Union, Supporters Demand Colectivo Begin Negotiations”

  1. Ryan Cotic says:

    I agree that they should have right to unionize. Realistically if people are unhappy with their jobs why dont’t they just find another career?

  2. GodzillakingMKE says:

    Creating and being in a union is a right. This is why.

  3. sbaldwin001 says:

    I am curious to know whether the union will be negotiating for wage increases, improved working conditions or both. Here’s why. In a WUWM interview published January 13, Wisconsin Policy Forum president, Rob Henken, listed what he felt were the forum’s top five research findings in 2021. Of these five, two were: “UWM’s decline in enrollment” and “Fewer students applying for financial aid”.

    I am concerned about the notion that working in a coffee shop should be considered a family supporting end job. This would be very bad for our economy and our future. Milwaukee has a low cost of living. It is one of our main selling points, However, this alone is not sufficient to attract the jobs of the future. We need to up our skills and education if we want to be on the radar of business site selectors.

    If the new Collectivo union is fighting for basic healthcare, more predictable hours and an environment that enables employees to fit further education into their lives, then I’m all for it. But if it is fighting to make the work an attractive career, then I think it is headed in the wrong direction for everyone.

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