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Compass Coffee is the latest regional coffee chain to join the movement started by Starbucks.

Multiple Compass Coffee, Bluestone Lane, and OCF Coffee stores are unionizing

Six Bluestone Lane and OCF Coffee stores in Philadelphia unionized, while seven Compass Coffee locations in Washington, D.C. filed for a union vote

The unionization movement in the coffee industry continues with recent announcements of three Bluestone Lane Coffee stores and three OCF coffee stores in Philadelphia have unionized, and seven Compass Coffee stores in the Washington, D.C. area filing for a union vote the same week. These are the first union votes at all three brands, though organizers hope it will spread to other locations (particularly Bluestone Lane, which has 66 locations nationally and is growing fast).

Employees at all three Philadelphia locations of Bluestone Lane voted unanimously to join Philadelphia Joint Board of Workers United, Local 80 – the city’s only local union for cafes and bakeries. The union is an affiliate of Workers United—the union behind the massive Starbucks unionization movement.

“Our unanimous election win at Bluestone Lane represents a significant victory for laborers rights and fair treatment,” Trista Mayo, a barista at Bluestone Lane said in a statement. “This is a powerful step towards ensuring workers’ voices are heard and respected in ours and every workplace.”

On June 3, a majority of employees at all three of Philadelphia’s OCF Coffee locations signed a letter requesting union recognition from their employer, though there is no word yet on if that recognition was recognized. If not, employees will have to formally file for a union vote with the National Labor Relations Board.

“We, at OCF Coffee hope our movement sends a message to workers everywhere: a company is sustained not by a name, but by the hard work of its employees,” Alex Simpson, a barista at OCF Coffee, said in a statement. “We are vital to our workplaces and the communities we serve, and we deserve to be treated as such.”  

Finally, at the Washington, D.C.-based coffee chain, Compass Coffee, employees at seven out of the 17 coffee locations filed petitions for union representation through Workers United with the National Labor Relations Board. Compass Coffee denied union organizers voluntary recognition on June 1, and the next step would be a unionization vote. Workers United expects that more stores are likely to join publicly soon.

Although Starbucks is one of the most high-profile unionization movements in the foodservice industry right now, union movements at cafes and coffee shops are catching on beyond just the green siren. Compass Coffee workers cited the organization efforts at La Colombe stores in the Washington D.C. area over the past couple of years as a major inspiration behind their efforts.

Workers are citing inconsistent and erratic scheduling practices, unsafe working conditions and broken machinery, low wages, and “lack of consistent tip implementation” as issues they would want to address in a future union contract.

“One of the biggest issues we have is not getting tips — there is no electronic option for tips,” Penina Meier-Silverman, a worker at the Georgetown location of Compass Coffee told NRN. “Employees are too scared to accept cash tips — we’re extremely discouraged form accepting tips in any form.”

In addition to the above stated issues, Meier-Silverman said that employees have complained of “arbitrary disciplinary actions,” including one barista who was allegedly written up for not smiling enough and another barista that they said was written up after a customer allegedly posted a lie about her on Google Reviews.  

Meier-Silverman stated that upper management has not reached out directly to employees, though café managers have said that upper management has allegedly been attempting to get union activists written up for proselytizing on the store floor. She added that she thinks the company has been engaging in union-busting.

On the corporate side, Compass Coffee has stated that the company takes these issues “very seriously”:

“At Compass Coffee we recognize and deeply value the hard work and dedication of our employees,” a representative with Compass Coffee told NRN. “Our team is critical to our success, and we are committed to ensuring that they are respected, supported, and fairly compensated. We take their concerns seriously and are committed to actively engaging in constructive dialogue to address them. Our priority is to foster a positive and collaborative work environment where every worker feels valued and heard. Together — our shared aim — is to build a future for Compass Coffee that benefits our employees, our customers and our organization.”

Contact Joanna at [email protected]

TAGS: Workforce
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