Workers at Brewing Market Coffee, a coffee seller and coffee shop operator with locations in Boulder, Longmont and Lafayette, have taken a key early step toward unionization.
The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco, and Grain Millers Union (BCTGM) Local 26 told BizWest that 74% of the company’s employees have signed union authorization cards, a move that precedes an official unionization vote, which has not yet been scheduled.
The Brewing Market workers have requested that company management voluntarily recognize their organizing effort and have yet to receive a response, the union said.
The company did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
Brewing Market workers, about 50 of whom are union eligible (non-management), say they’re organizing in search of better working conditions, pay and benefits.
“We aren’t paid enough, and barely make the tips we’re promised,” Benny Cardin, a barista at Brewing Market’s Tea Emporium and Coffee Shop location in downtown Boulder, said in a statement. “We want to be able to afford rent, afford food, have basic health care, and live a life not based on the fear that comes with living paycheck to paycheck. Baristas in Boulder deserve so much more, and we are ready to fight for it.”
Should they opt to join the Local 26, they won’t be fighting alone. Late last year, workers at Boulder’s Spruce Confections LLC, which manufacturers baked goods and operates several cafe-coffee shops, voted to throw their lot in with the union and began negotiations this year on their first labor contract.
The Denver-based Local 26 represents manufacturing, production, maintenance, and sanitation workers at bakeries and food production operations around Colorado.
Baristas in seven Colorado Starbucks locations, including in Superior and Greeley, have 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, a barista at the Brewing Market’s Espresso Vino location in Lafayette. “I think history will look back on us for being part of the change future generations will benefit from. Knowing that makes this all worth it.”
The local unionization effort among coffee shop and cafe workers comes amid a period of relative ascendance for organized labor, both in Colorado and across the country.
To be sure, organized labor in the United States has largely been on the wane for the last four-plus decades, but the tight labor market and the COVID-19 pandemic have shifted the balance of power in the direction of certain workers.
Much of the recent labor organizing activity has involved service, retail and hospitality workers who, unlike employees in other sectors 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 (NYSE: KR) King Soopers — who worked on the front line of the pandemic when many other businesses were closed while processing the trauma of a 2021 mass shooting that killed 10 in the company’s Table Mesa grocery store location in Boulder — exerted some of their power this year, striking for nine days in January before inking a new three-year labor contract.
“The pandemic has revealed that some jobs we’ve thought of as fairly innocuous are actually harmful (to workers in certain positions),” Jeffrey Zax, a professor of economics and a labor expert at the University of Colorado Boulder, told BizWest in a June interview. “You’re exposed to the public and therefore exposed to public health hazards, so your health is at risk. That means that employers have to treat their employees better if they want to have any.”
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