Cooperatives & CommunitiesInternational

Baristas of Canadian coffee chain end strike, reach contract agreement

ONTARIO – Sunergos Coffee baristas in Canada have won their first contract agreement after a seven-day strike, ending a seven-day strike. The agreement includes a raise in starting pay to US$ 10 hourly, removal of wage caps, and “just cause” protection.

It also includes additional paid days off for sick time, bereavement, and new child leave. The agreement follows a monthlong negotiation process, which began with Sunergos employees forming a union with 32BJ SEIU.

The agreement comes as coffee industry workers across the country push for higher standards, with employees from Sunergos, other regional chains, and over 370 Starbucks stores organizing a movement to form unions and gain greater say over wages, benefits, and employment policies.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles’ Go Get Em Tiger coffee franchise has seen a unionisation wave, with over 70% of its over 100 workers signing union authorization cards. The company, which includes eight retail locations and a warehouse in Vernon, is seeking to become California’s largest unionised coffee chain. Workers are concerned about workplace issues such as unpredictable schedule changes, increased workloads, and uncomfortable working conditions. A union would help hold management accountable and give workers “weight in the conversation.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, workers allege that the company disregarded safety protocols and opened indoor seating to accommodate more guests, making some employees feel unsafe. Go Get Em Tiger employees aim to join IBEW Local 45, which represents broadcast, television, and recording engineers on the West Coast. The union will include full-time and part-time employees such as baristas, kitchen managers, line and prep cooks, dishwashers, and delivery drivers.

Organisers have asked for voluntary recognition from management, but the company has not mentioned voluntary recognition in a letter to employees. They are working with the National Labor Relations Board to move forward with a secret ballot election and affirmed employees’ right to vote without pressure or harassment. If the election is successful, Go Get Em Tiger would become California’s largest unionised coffee chain.

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