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Feature

March 25, 2021
Colectivo Coffee Employees Vote To Unionize
If successful, they’ll be the largest unionized coffee house in the country.
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Employees at Colectivo, a Milwaukee-based coffee shop and roastery with locations in Chicago and Madison, are voting to unionize next week. They first became public with their intent to unionize last August, a move spurred, in part, by the coffee chain’s handling of safety, scheduling, and layoffs during the coronavirus pandemic.

Organizers are working with labor organization International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), to help guide them through the process. Their Instagram highlights many of the things they hope to bargain for in their union contract - regular raises and performance reviews, notices for scheduling changes, and protocols around safety, sanitation, and laying-off and rehiring workers.

Shortly after announcing their plans to unionize, Colectivo hired LRI, a union avoidance firm that specializes in “maintaining the union-free workplace.” They’re hired to hold meetings that discourage employees from organizing, using fears like steep dues, losing rights as workers, or forcing companies to declare bankruptcy. When they consult with companies they have to file reports with the labor department explaining what they were contracted for and how much they were paid, and in February LRI was paid $3,000 (plus expenses) to consult for one day.

Votes are due to be cast on March 30th, with final results in early April. If the move to unionize goes through, the hope is that it will inspire other regional and national chains to do the same.

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