After months of negotiations, baristas from the four Ithaca, New York locations of Gimme! Coffee have unanimously ratified their first labor contract with management as official members of Workers United Local 2833.
A press release published on the Tompkins County Workers’ Center website announced that the baristas’ contract includes a newly established paid sick leave program; a union “just cause” clause to protect workers from unfair discipline or discharge; monthly joint labor/management meetings, and other new developments.
Barista Korbin Richards, who was on the organizing committee in the run-up to joining the union, characterized the contract as a give and take.
“We didn’t get financial transparency and worthwhile higher wages but agreed on the condition of a one-year economic reopener,” Richards told Daily Coffee News. “That being said, we won pure just cause, paid sick days, a solid break policy and a grievance and arbitration procedure.”
Upstate New York baristas for Gimme! Coffee voted 16 to 1 for non-managerial workers to form a union in June of last year, thereby officially becoming members of Workers United Local 2833. Since then, according to barista Samantha Mason, a palpable shift in attitudes among workers has occurred.
“We’ve seen so much change,” Mason told Daily Coffee News. “Workers are talking together more about workplace issues and brainstorming how to take action and solve them. It’s a step in proclaiming our autonomy at work, whether or not management supports that trend. We have so much community support for what we’ve done and can’t wait to see how our union’s relationships develop in the coming year.”
The new contract took effect immediately upon execution. Mason said that the immediate next step for Gimme! Coffee unionized baristas is to implement the contract, and make sure all workers understand how work is different with it in place.
“For example, we’re already challenging a disciplinary action against an employee, and that’s something we couldn’t do if we weren’t protected by the contract,” said Mason. “Part of this process is training Union Stewards, or what we call Barista Advocates, who will support and represent other baristas through conflict/unfair discipline.”
“We’re also excited to continue building worker solidarity through projects like our newsletter, empowerment workshops, and conflict-resolution training,” added Richards. “And we’re still heavily involved in the Tompkins County Hospitality Project and encourage non-organized workers to talk to us about unionizing.”