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Colectivo Workers Union Inspired By The International Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers

LaToya Dennis
Colectivo Coffee workers successfully form a union.

Last month, workers at Colectivo Coffee voted to join a union. It culminated more than a year of work, and the process was not without controversy. Colectivo was openly against the decision and hired an anti-union company called the Labor Relations Institute to help convince employees not to unionize.

That effort failed, and Colectivo employees now are represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, or IBEW.

Ida Lucchessi is one of the employees who helped Colectivo workers unionize last month.

Lucchessi says that she's looking forward to another party at the table to hold people accountable. She explains that obtaining contracts that include Weingarten Rights for workers will mean they are taken more seriously.

"That's really promising to know that there's that security just in case anything could happen. And then, that we'll have somebody there who knows more about like, the actual laws that we're operating under and things like that. So that, like additional education in the workplace, as well as accountability," describes Lucchessi.

John Jacobs is the assistant business manager for IBEW local 494. He says that by unionizing, both sides get a collective bargaining agreement.

Jacobs says, "Collectively, the two parties sat down, discussed the terms and conditions within, and agreed to it. And when you do that, it provides a lot of clarity instead of a lot of gray. That is ultimately what both parties get out of it."

IBEW recently held what they called a "reverse boycott." Jacob says the event disproves the stereotype of unions going on strike or hurting the company.

"And so ultimately, it was a means to show support, especially Labor Day weekend of all weekends to do it, show support for the employees. At the same time, you're showing support to the company, yes, even though they've come along, and they're not for this. And it's ultimately to show a win-win," says Jacob.

In addition to helping workers have a voice at the table, Jacob adds that the move could also be a profitable business deal. The IBEW boasts over 650,000 members between Canada and the United States. By joining, Jacobs says, that Colectivo could gain more exposure.

Jacob points out, "Can you imagine if we are successful in getting our first contract? There is locations in Chicago, and if you're the sole provider for coffee for that convention, I mean that's where I'm going with these relationships that we could have with the owners of Lincoln, Ward, and Paul at Colectivo to expand on what they have already."

Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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