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Colectivo Coffee hires labor law experts as some workers move to unionize

The small Midwestern coffee chain said it is struggling during the pandemic and is seeking to offer the truths about unionizing to its employees.
Colectivo Coffee logo

Colectivo Coffee, a 21-unit cafe chain, said it has hired labor law experts as some of its workers are pushing for unionization.

Workers are seeking mandated coronavirus testing as well as better communication for addressing issues with management, according to media reports.

“Yes, we brought in labor law experts (we do not have that expertise, thank goodness),” Scott Schwebel, Colectivo’s vice president of brand, marketing and retail, said in an email. “We must ensure we follow federal NLRB laws when addressing our co-workers on this topic. Our co-workers deserve and need to know the facts/truth about unionizing, from experts, not just the false-misleading promises the unions are allowed to peddle to gain support in this process.”

Some of the unionizing employees have set up a web page and Instagram account to share their message. The account has about 1,200 followers.

Schwebel said not all of the chain’s employees are taking part in the unionizing effort.

“Our co-workers are not of one mind,” he said.

The Milwaukee-based chain, which had been in growth mode, is struggling amid the pandemic. Colectivo announced the closure of two cafes last week and nixed an in-progress project to build a production bakery in Chicago. Two other units have been closed since March and COVID has also hit Colectivo’s wholesale business, Schwebel said.

Colectivo’s owners have sent letters to employees, urging them not to join the union, according to media reports.

“We believe unions can be great, but usually for long-term positions (like the trades),” Schwebel said. “They do not, however, have any skills or merit offerings in a service & hospitality industry like our coffee business, and transient employment cafe jobs get little or nothing in return.”

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