Employees at a Peet’s Coffee location in north Davis, California, have voted to unionize, a first for the half-century-old coffee chain that boasts more than 300 outlets throughout the United States.
Taking place on Friday, the 14-1 election was to join Service Employees International Union Local 1021. If the election is not contested, the next step will be for Peet’s and the unionized employees to enter contract negotiations.
“While we had hoped for another outcome, we respect the right of our Davis employees to choose,” Peet’s Coffee said in a statement to DCN. “…As we follow the legally required next steps with the union at North Davis, we will continue to work for and with our employees companywide. That is the Peet’s way.”
Initially, employees at a second Peet’s coffee location, in downtown Davis, had also petitioned to hold a union election, although that petition was withdrawn last week, according to the company.
An organizing group called Pete’s United has alleged that the company offered employees at that second location $500 each to pull the petition and give the company “another chance.” In a statement to DCN, Pete’s Coffee confirmed that it offered bonuses to the downtown Davis employees, but only “after the petition was withdrawn at that location to recognize the extra time those employees had invested leading up and during the petition process.”
Founded in Berkeley, California, in 1966, Peet’s became one of the most influential and successful coffee companies in the United States, helping to create and build the specialty coffee movement along with its closest industry peer, Starbucks.
The union election at Peet’s is part of a broader movement towards organized labor in the coffee industry. As of this writing, workers at more than 270 U.S. Starbucks stores have elected to unionize, while union elections have also passed at smaller companies such as Sunergos Coffee (Louisville, Kentucky), Heine Brothers Coffee (Louisville), Peace Coffee (Minneapolis) and Colectivo Coffee (Milwaukee).
Earlier this month, baristas and shift leaders at Intelligentsia Coffee’s five retail locations in Chicago became the first unionized employees in the specialty coffee industry to ratify a contract since Gimme! Coffee baristas signed a union contract in 2018.
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Nick Brown is the editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine.