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Heine Brothers Workers Ratify First Union Contract in Louisville

A group of unionized workers at Louisville, Kentucky-based Heine Brothers Coffee have ratified their first contract.

The ratification comes approximately 10 months after workers at 17 Heine Brothers locations first signaled an intention to unionize, and about six months after a simple-majority vote in favor of unionization last September.

The vote, which followed some allegations of union-busting behavior levied by Heine Brothers workers against their employer, made Heine Brothers the second-largest unionized coffee chain in the country, behind Milwaukee-based Colectivo Coffee. Notably, Starbucks stores to this point have been unionized on an individual basis, rather than as multi-store networks.

The Heine Brothers case represents only the second union contract ratification in the specialty coffee industry since the current wave of unionization efforts following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In January of this year, workers at Intelligentsia’s five coffee bars ratified a labor contract after less than two months of negotiations following a pro-union vote. A month later, the company announced that two of its longest-running Chicago shops, in Wicker Park and Logan Square, were slated to close in April. The company cited slow business and rising lease costs, according to an Eater report.

According to a group representing the unionized workers called Heine Brothers Working United, the contract vote was approved by more than 99%. There are 230 workers represented across Heine Brothers’ retail bars and roastery locations. 

The contract calls for improved pathways to full-time hours, improved mechanisms for sick workers to take time off and representation through employee-led committees.

Under the new contract, starting pay for baristas and roastery employees will be approximately $11 and $17, respectively, with annual pay increases in each of the first four years of employment, plus a minimum of $4 worth of tips.

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