By Mary Croy
The workers at Colectivo Coffee, a Milwaukee based coffee shop are in the middle of a unionizing drive. Their struggle to unionize was featured on a recent episode of the Bad Faith podcast with Briahna Joy Gray and Virgil Texas. The podcast featured Colectivo worker Zoe Muellner, who was laid off due to her organizing efforts.
Worker organizing at Colectivo has been ongoing since 2018. If successful, the union will join the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). Right now there are about 375 employees in the shops in Wisconsin and Illinois. Organizers chose IBEW because all employees – from baristas, to trainers, to warehouse workers – can be represented by the same union.
The vote to unionize the workplace started March 9 and will end March 30. If successful, the union will be the largest for café workers in the country.
The company, which has rapidly grown from its Milwaukee base to shops in Madison and Chicago, has taken the usual union busting tactics. They hired the Labor Relations Institute, an infamous union busting firm, at $375 an hour to try to stop the workers from forming a union. The Institute engages in a number of pressure tactics, including emails, smearing organizers of the union, gaslighting, retaliation, arbitrary dismissals and misinformation campaigns to intimidate workers. You can read more about their disgusting union-busting tactics in Madison Area DSA member Alice Herman’s new article for In These Times, Colectivo Could Soon Become the Largest Unionized Coffee Chain in the U.S.
Workers have asked customers using the Colectivo app to add Union Yes to their names in the app to show that they support the organizing effort. If ordering coffee in person, order it “IBEW strong” to show support.
It is very important for socialists to support workplace organizing efforts. Large sections of the service sector remain unorganized and are staffed by workers who are exploited through low wages, bad working conditions, and a lack of decent benefits. By supporting service workers as they organize and by organizing our own workplaces, we can begin to turn the tide on predatory capitalism and build a better future for all.
To learn more about Colectivo worker organizing, check out:
Colectivo Workers Unite, a website for the workers and their supporters.
From The Dish: A Worker’s Rag, the online newsletter of DSA’s Restaurant Organizing Project: Colectivo Organizes Union Vote at Midwest Coffee Company | The Dish: A Workers’ Rag (dishrag.org)
From Midwest Socialist: A Budding Midwestern Labor Struggle: Colectivo Coffee Employees In The Middle Of Historic Vote To Unionize