After months of delay, workers at Colectivo Coffee Roasters Inc. have been granted union representation.
The National Labor Relations Board issued a final decision Thursday, determining that International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 494 was rightfully elected as the bargaining unit representative for employees at the Milwaukee-based cafe chain.
Ultimately, the NLRB denied a request made by Colectivo’s ownership in January for a review of the board’s earlier decision to overrule the company’s initial objections to the election results. The request “raises no substantial issues warranting review,” NLRB said in its order.
Workers at Colectivo Coffee voted to unionize by a 106 to 99 vote back in August. The process dragged on due to repeated legal pushback by company ownership. Now that the final decision has been made, NLRB can officially certify the election results and contract negotiations between the union and ownership can begin.
“The owners and management at Colectivo Coffee have said numerous times publicly that once the process has run its course to exhaustion, they would bargain in good faith with their workers,” said Dean Warsh, business manager IBEW Local 494 in a statement. “Well, that time if finally here and we look forward to the owners and management of Colectivo Coffee joining us and their workers at the bargaining table and bargain a first contract with your workers…”
Colectivo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Initially, IBEW had expected NLRB’s certification to come within days of the final vote count, but the timeline was extended when National Labor Relations Board regional director Jennifer Hadsall called a hearing on Sept. 29 to discuss evidence supporting Colectivo’s objections, which claim mail-in ballots were mishandled by employee organizers and question the integrity of the election.
Those objections were filed in April, a month after the election, which ended in a 99-99 tie, with another 16 ballots challenged over concerns with employees resigning or being terminated around the time of the election. The union’s tally increased to 106 after Hadsall ruled that seven of the 16 challenged ballots should be counted. Colectivo tried to fight back, issuing a request for review of the decision to count ballots of employees who leave a company before votes are counted. NLRB denied the request, and the final vote count was tallied. Colectivo pursued its original objections.
Following the September hearing, an NLRB hearing officer issued a report that recommended overturning Colectivo’s objections entirely, saying the company failed to prove that its objections “reasonably tended to interfere with employee free choice,” according to NLRB filings.
Colectivo filed exceptions to the recommendations, but Hasdall ultimately decided to overrule the company’s objections to the March election results. Colectivo proceeded to challenge that decision as well.
Colectivo has nearly 450 employees across its 12 cafes and roasting facility in Milwaukee, three cafes in Madison and five cafes in Chicago.