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Colectivo Workers Celebrate Vote To Unionize, Discuss Potential Bargaining Issues With Company

Colectivo workers
Marti Mikkelson
Colectivo Coffee employee Hillary Laskonis discusses the workers' vote to unionize at a news conference in Milwaukee.

Colectivo Coffee workers in Milwaukee Wednesday looked ahead to issues they’d like to discuss when they begin negotiating their first contract with the company. Workers voted 106-99 earlier this week to form a union with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). Once in place, Colectivo would likely become the largest cafe chain in the country to unionize.

Hillary Laskonis works as a barista at Colectivo in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood and spoke Wednesday outside of IBEW local headquarters. She said she and her coworkers hope to address better working conditions with the company. “Equipment maintenance and just reasonable scheduling practices,” Laskonis said.

Laskonis said she hopes to change the practice of employees coming to work sick if they can’t get someone to cover for them. IBEW Local 494 Business Manager Dean Warsh said he’s keeping an open mind about relations between the union and the company.

“We’ve asked them to come to the bargaining table in good faith and I believe that we’ll have a good relationship once they see that we’re about growing the company, let’s get everybody back to work,” Warsh said.

Colectivo has about 20 cafes located in the Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago areas. The company issued a statementon its website this week saying it’s disappointed in the vote to unionize, but will bargain in good faith.

Warsh said in the coming weeks, members of Local 494 will survey employees to flush out issues they’d like to discuss with the company. Then, workers will pick a bargaining committee and set up a first meeting with the owners.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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