Workers at Brewing Market Coffee, a coffee vendor and coffeehouse operator with locations in Boulder, Longmont and Lafayette, have taken a key step toward unionization.
Local 26 of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grains Union (BCTGM) tells BizWest that 74% of company employees have signed union permission cards, a move ahead of a vote union official, which has not yet been programmed.
Brewing Market workers have asked company management to voluntarily recognize their organizing effort and have yet to receive a response, the union said.
The company did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
Brewing Market workers, about 50 of whom are unionized (non-management), say they are organizing in search of better working conditions, pay and benefits.
“We don’t get paid enough and barely tip as promised,” Benny Cardin, a barista at Brewing Market’s Tea Emporium and Coffee Shop in downtown Boulder, said in a statement. “We want to be able to pay rent, buy food, have basic health care, and live a life that isn’t based on the fear that comes with living paycheck to paycheck. Boulder baristas deserve so much more, and we’re ready to fight for it.
If they choose to join Local 26, they won’t be fighting alone. Late last year, workers at Boulder’s Spruce Confections LLC, which makes baked goods and operates several coffee shops, voted in favor of the union and began negotiations this year on their first contract.
Local 26, based in Denver, represents manufacturing, production, maintenance and sanitation workers in Colorado’s bakeries and food production operations.
Baristas at seven Starbucks locations in Colorado, including Superior and Greeley, voted this year to join Starbucks Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union.
“At the end of the day, our biggest motivation for unionizing is how much we care about each other,” said Olivia Schmich, barista at Brewing Market’s Espresso Vino location in Lafayette. “I think history will remember us for being part of the change that future generations will benefit from. Knowing that it’s all worth it.
The local organizing effort among cafe and coffeehouse workers comes amid a period of relative ascendancy for organized labor, both in Colorado and across the country.
To be sure, organized labor in the United States has largely been in decline for more than four decades, but the tight labor market and the COVID-19 pandemic have shifted the balance of power in favor of some workers.
Much recent work organizing activity has involved service, retail and hospitality workers who, unlike employees in other industries with the ability to work remotely, are often unable to adjust working conditions and settings to better align with the post-pandemic business environment.
Colorado United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 members employed by Kroger Co.’s King Soopers (NYSE: KR) – who worked on the front lines of the pandemic when many other businesses were shuttered while dealing with the trauma of a shooting mass in 2021 that killed 10 at the company’s Table Mesa grocery store in Boulder – exercised some of their power this year, striking for nine days in January before signing a new three-year contract.
“The pandemic has revealed that some jobs that we thought were harmless enough are actually harmful (for workers in certain positions),” said Jeffrey Zax, professor of economics and labor expert at the University of Colorado Boulder, to BizWest in a June interview. “You are exposed to the public and therefore exposed to public health risks, so your health is at risk. This means that employers must treat their employees better if they want to have them.
This article was first published by BizWest, an independent news agency, and is published under a license agreement. © 2022 BizWestMedia LLC.