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Sidewalk Coffeehouse Could Be the First Federalized Cafe in Massachusetts


worker sidewalk coffeehouse, a Boston-area chain that operates eight cafes and a coffee roaster. unionize. Sidewalk Coffee Organizing Committee on Tuesday, June 1 sent a letter Larry Margulies, the owner of Pavement Coffee Roasters, refrain from engaging in any union-busting activities, informing him of his intention to form a union and asking that he voluntarily recognize the union, and to refrain from engaging in any union-busting activities. Participate in contract negotiations.

In Statement To GBH News, Margulies said that Pavement “has no intention of working to prevent our staff members from organizing. If they have an established association to present to us, we will work with them from there.” ”

Michelle Fallon, a union representative on the sidewalk organizing committee working with the New England joint board Unite Here, told Eater that sidewalk workers were happy to see Margulis’ statement. Fallon said the organizing committee invited management for a meeting on Tuesday, but management could not attend. A second invitation was given and the footpath lawyers contacted the organizing committee on Wednesday morning. “We look forward to having a broader conversation about next steps,” Fallon said. “Nothing has been resolved yet, but we are looking forward to a healthy conversation.”

Eater obtained a copy of a letter sent Wednesday by Margulis to sidewalk workers in which the cafe owner wrote, “I want you to know that I hear you and am with you,” and that and the rest of the executive team. “are” committed to supporting your desire to unionize.” Later in the letter, Margulies explained that she was once a recent college graduate working at a bagel shop in Allston and previously knew how hard their employees worked, and “what kind of needs [they] I want to meet [their] Lives.” (That bagel shop would later become the first on the sidewalk.)

“So we’ll work on this together,” Margulies continued. “While the unionization process is something that is new to us, and there will certainly be a lot of news to share in the coming days, I am confident that together we can make Pavement Coffeehouse a better and more appropriate place to work. will build.”

By Wednesday, the footpath management had agreed to recognize the union. According to GBH News.

The organized effort of sidewalk coffeehouse workers is significant, and its union will be the first of its kind in the state. If successful, the sidewalk coffee organizing committee’s union campaign could inspire workers at other cafes, restaurants and bars to follow suit. it will be no small feat an industry in which labor organizing is extremely difficult. Indeed, Fallon said that since going public, the organizing committee has already heard from several other cafe employees in Greater Boston who want to learn how to organize their own workspaces.

Prominent progressive legislators of the state have already come out in favor of the effort of the Pavement Coffee Organizing Committee.

“Pavement Coffee employees deserve better pay, wider benefits and a voice at work,” Boston City Council member and mayoral candidate Michelle Wu said in a statement Tuesday. “I support their efforts to form a union, and I hope that Sidewalk Coffee will voluntarily recognize these workers if the majority votes to organize. Cafe workers put in long, hard hours serving the public. And they are vital to the fabric of our city. To the sidewalk workers to stand up and speak: I am with you today and every day until you get the union you deserve!”

Senator Ed Markey Tweet your support, writing, “I stand with the sidewalk coffee workers and congratulate them as they begin the process of forming a union. I encourage @ sidewalk coffee The management should voluntarily recognize the union and should not interfere with the right of its workers to organize.

A sidewalk worker told GBH News she expects the majority of the coffee chain’s roughly 80 workers to sign union cards. A source with knowledge of the union drive told Eater that the number is already around 60, representing the majority of sidewalk workers. A representative for Pavement told GBH News that the company will “agree to have the card checked by a neutral mediator and follow up with the results” and that “if the card’s check demonstrates majority employee support for the union, we will call the union.” recognized as a bargaining representative.”

The Sidewalk Coffee Organizing Committee, which is represented by the New England Joint Board Unite Here Union, will demand a pay audit for each position in the company, as well as a base pay increase for each employee. Currently, entry-level workers on the sidewalk earn $13.50 an hour, the minimum wage in Massachusetts.

The organizing committee will also negotiate for paid mental health days and more flexible break schedules – both critical workplace conditions in times of need, but especially during the ongoing pandemic – as well as financial and managerial transparency.

Since the footpath management plans to recognize the union, the organizing committee will not need to file a petition to form a union with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). If the opposite were true – that is, if the sidewalk management voluntarily refused to recognize the association – the organizing committee would have to file a petition with the NLRB, which would then vote. (Often when management does not voluntarily recognize a union, it is betting that it can launch an effective anti-union campaign to prevent workers from voting to unionize. A recent high-profile example of this is recently played At an Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama.)

If employees of sidewalk coffeehouses successfully bargain for union contracts, they would be a very small minority among food service workers in the United States. According to US Bureau of Labor StatisticsWorkers in the “food services and drinking places” industry have the lowest rates of union representation in the nation and the least likely to be union members. Food service workers belonging to a union earn an average of $110 more per week than non-union workers nationally. That’s a difference of at least $440 per month, or $5,720 annually.

As it stands, the food service industry is full of inequality and abuse (See: this, this, this, this, and this, for example), and non-federal workers with little or no recourse. The willing nature of food service employment (and most jobs in the US for that matter) makes change extremely risky for workers. Striking – an important step on the road to improving working conditions – can lead to concessions, but it can also lead to job losses and financial insecurity for workers, who can only be fired and replaced by employers. could.

The industry has already incorporated financial insecurity into its model: most cafes, restaurants and bars do not offer health insurance; tip credit, which allows operators to pay certain workers a minimum wage until they make the rest into tips (who have a legacy in slavery), is still on the books in Massachusetts; And undocumented workers, who make up a substantial portion of the food service industry, are not eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. As a result, for many workers the loss of income can be the difference between making rent and not making rent.

While there are labor advocacy groups like One Fair Wage Advancing Legislation to Eliminate Minimum Wage in Massachusetts and beyond, and as the PRO Act gains momentum, which Remove many barriers for workers who want to unionize There are indications at their workplace, legislative level, that conditions may improve in the near future. But the politicians working on the pavement are not waiting for the situation to improve. They are acting on their own. And their actions may prove to be a guide for future union campaigns in the food service industry.

Update, June 3rd, at 8am: This post has been updated to reflect the fact that sidewalk management plans to recognize the association of the Sidewalk Coffee Organizing Committee.





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