With new tally, union gets majority vote at Colectivo Coffee

By: - August 23, 2021 6:20 pm

A Colectivo Coffee shop in Milwaukee (Thomas Hawk | CC BY-NC 2.0)

A majority of Colectivo Coffee employees in Wisconsin and Illinois voted in favor of union representation after seven additional ballots were counted on Monday.

After nearly five months of delays, federal officials opened seven previously unopened ballots in the union representation election on Monday, all of them favoring the union. The result shifted the tally from what had been a tie vote to 106-99 for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

The results must still be certified by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which supervised the election. 

“Colectivo Coffee workers have worked diligently for the opportunity to have their voices heard,” said Dean Warsh, business manager for IBEW Local 494, in a statement after the vote count. 

“We are calling on Colectivo ownership to bargain in good faith with their employees once the election has been certified,” Warsh stated

When most of the ballots were counted April 6, the vote was tied at 99 in favor of joining the IBEW and 99 opposed to unionizing. At the time, 16 ballots were left unopened and uncounted, most of them because of challenges that were brought by Colectivo’s lawyers.

The director of the NLRB Minneapolis region, which includes Milwaukee, subsequently rejected challenges to seven of the ballots, allowing them to be counted. The remaining nine ballots were excluded from counting for various reasons.

Colectivo workers began organizing near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Union supporters complained of problems that included inadequate attention by company management to maintenance and their frustrations with how the company had managed a variety of issues, including paid time off, during the pandemic.

Colectivo’s rebuff to the organizing drive included the company’s hiring of an anti-union consultant that held meetings with employees to discourage them from supporting the union. The company’s response drew attention far beyond Wisconsin. Critics said the company’s opposition ran counter to Colectivo’s long-standing image as a business rooted in progressive social values.

Colectivo representatives did not reply Monday to an emailed inquiry from the Wisconsin Examiner about the company’s response to Monday’s vote count.


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Erik Gunn
Erik Gunn

Deputy Editor Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, health policy and related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary.