Amidst a wave of organized labor efforts in the specialty coffee industry, employees at Minneapolis-based Peace Coffee have formally elected to unionize.
According to the Local 663 chapter of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), 17 employees of the company were part of the majority vote and will now comprise the bargaining unit in contract negotiations.
As of this writing, the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that oversees union elections, had not yet published the final vote tally, although UFCW Local 663 Communications Director Jessica Hayssen told DCN that it was a “strong majority” in favor.
“This is just the beginning of the journey,” Sandro Garcia, a senior production associate at Peace Coffee, said in an announcement from the union group. “We will soon begin to bargain for our first contract. I am looking forward to a much-needed change for my coworkers, our company and our families so we improve all our lives.”
In a statement to Daily Coffee News, Peace Coffee Owner and CEO Lee Wallace said the company accepts the election results.
“We accept the outcome of the election and are so proud of how the Peace Coffee team — regardless of how they voted — really leaned in on the question of unionization to study the pros and cons, to ask questions and to make whatever decisions made sense for them and their families,” Wallace said. “We look forward to meeting with the union’s negotiating committee and to getting the process underway. This is new ground so we will learn as we go and we’ll do our very best to make sure we continue to act in ways consistent with and supportive of our culture, our shared values, and our shared future.”
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One of the coffee industry’s first certified B Corps and a founding roasting member of the coffee-trading cooperative Coop Coffees, Peace Coffee has long advocated for fair and sustainable practices in the coffee industry. The company recently signed a 10-year-lease to keep its manufacturing headquarters in the Phillips neighborhood of Midtown Minneapolis.
In November of 2020, Peace Coffee announced it was closing its small network of branded retail coffee shops while focusing on ramping up roasting operations.
While employees of Starbucks locations all over the country have captured headlines for their unionization efforts, dozens of other unionization efforts are currently afoot in the specialty coffee industry, including a recent election request from workers at Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago and a finalized pro-union vote among workers of Colectivo Coffee in Milwaukee and Chicago.
Last week, the owners of the Midtown Detroit location of Great Lakes Coffee Company announced a decision to permanently close a store where employees had for months been seeking union recognition. In Minneapolis, employees of Spyhouse Coffee voted against unionization in a high-profile election. The company was subsequently sold to Kansas City, Missouri-based Fairwave Collective.
Despite these and other efforts towards union representation, few examples of union-negotiated, ratified contracts exist to this point in the specialty coffee industry outside of the 2018 case of Gimme! Coffee in upstate New York.
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Nick Brown is the editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine.
It is absolutely amazing to see the shift of traditional owner power in the industry. Congratulations to the workers at Peace Coffee and the owners and management for the transition. Well done!
After thirty years at the helm of Dean’s Beans, we are examining turning into a worker coop model. As the sole owner (never a penny of outside money) I believe that it is the workers at our beanery who deserve to own the company going forward and I believe that they will adhere to the people-centered values towards the farmers and our customers that have given us thirty years of uninterrupted, slow and steady growth while providing for their families as well.