At Colectivo Coffee, employees are organizing into a union. The company serves coffee, baked good and savory items at cafés in Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago.
Although there had been talk of a union among workers for years, after the COVID pandemic began, the need for a union became more urgent.
“There were always talks of unionizing, there were, but there were always issues of time with that. You know, never was the right time, there was too much going on. But then, COVID hit, and that’s kind of when the ball started rolling,” said Noelle Filali. Filali started working at Colectivo five years ago, when she was in high school.
“Originally, there was a petition that a coworker created to try to get two weeks off, paid, from the company because the doors were shutting and people were worried about jobs and everything like that. So we ended up getting a ton of signatures, people were really great in signing that. We ended up getting the two weeks off,” said Filali.
Building on their successful petition for paid time off, the group focused on the steps necessary to formally create the union. Filali described how they decided that the International Brotherhood of Electoral workers, or IBEW, was a logical choice to guide them in creating their union.
“I think that that time of not working kind of got people more thinking, OK, let’s be a little bit more serious about this talk of unionizing. Then we kind of just started talking about which union we wanted to choose. And we choose IBEW because Colectivo is our café coworkers, but we also have warehouse and bakery and delivery drivers, you know, it’s a big company. So we just thought that IBEW could work with us in the most effective way.”
Presently, workers are collecting signatures calling for a formal election by all eligible employees. Their goal is a vote before the end of the year.