Following Colectivo Coffee workers' vote to unionize, organizers and officials held a press conference Wednesday to discuss their expectations and next steps for the bargaining process ahead. On Monday, Region 18 of the National Labor Relations Board completed the vote count, resulting in 106 votes in favor of unionizing under the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 494 and 99 votes against. The victory came after an 18-month campaign by a group of Colectivo employees, who were met with opposition from the owners of the Milwaukee-based company. According to IBEW, Colectivo Coffee is now the largest cafe workers union in the country. NLRB is expected to officially certify the results early next week, said Dean Warsh, business manager of IBEW Local 494. After that, IBEW will begin the process of contacting and meeting with employees to get their input on what issues should be covered in the labor contract. From there, both parties will head to the bargaining table. "It's a very diverse group, from baristas to delivery drivers to bakery workers -- everybody has their own desires of what they'd like to see in their first contract," said Warsh. Hillary Laskonis, a barista at Colectivo's Humboldt Avenue location and employee organizer, said it's not yet clear what workers' priorities will be, but health and safety concerns are paramount. "So much has changed from before the (COVID-19) pandemic to now that are really going to be diligent about serving our co-workers across departments," she said. "Things we've focused on are working conditions, equipment maintenance and reasonable scheduling." Prior to the pandemic, Laskonis said, it was not unusual for employees to come to work when they were sick -- or even injured -- if they could not find a replacement. Colectivo's current COVID-19 policy requires workers to stay home if they are sick. Without union representation coming out of the pandemic, Laskonis worried that conditions would go back to pre-pandemic standards. She added that unionizing will allow employee input to be considered and implemented in the day-to-day operations of the business. "We haven't seen a post-COVID world where we have that many orders at one cafe, and we're going to have to adjust and I think if we try to do that without worker input, we wont succeed," said Laskonis, who has "a lot of hope" for Colectivo going forward. In an open letter to customers posted on the company’s website, Colectivo’s Dan Hurdle, Paul Miller, Lincoln Fowler and Ward Fowler said they were disappointed in the union vote result but would "respect the rules and bargain in good faith." The owners said their disappointment stemmed from the fact that the majority of its 440 employees did not vote in favor of unionization and because the NLRB counted votes of several individuals who left the company before the final result was tallied. Warsh expects the union and the company will "have a good relationship once they see that we're about growing the company." "If the employees don't succeed, the company doesn't succeed," he said. "It (the company isn't) making money, the employees aren't making money, so we're going to do everything we can to help build them up." During Monday's press conference, Stephanie Bloomingdale, president of Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, noted the greater significance of Colectivo employees' unionization efforts. "This is not only a victory for Colectivo workers all across Wisconsin and Illinois, but it's also a victory for workers everywhere who want to join a union," said Bloomingdale. "This shows that it can be done, for cafes, other restaurants or workers in other industries." She commended the employees pushing to unionize for remaining united during the organization process, and she called upon company owners to "do the right thing, to get to bargaining table immediately and bargain a fair contract."
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