In a local first, workers at Intelligentsia Coffee ratify union contract

The two-year deal covers five stores in Chicago and comes just four months after the workers won collective bargaining rights.

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A drink being created at Intelligentsia’s roastery in Chicago.

A drink being created at Intelligentsia’s roastery in Chicago.

Sun-Times files

With union organizing drives brewing at area coffee chains, workers at Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago are the first to taste a collective bargaining agreement.

The workers have ratified a two-year contract that delivers wage increases and job protections, Local 1220 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers announced Friday. The contract covers 31 employees at Intelligentsia’s five “coffeebars” in Chicago.

The baristas and shift leads will get pay increases of about 14% over the term of the contract, said Brett Lyons, business representative for Local 1220. It’s the IBEW’s first agreement with a coffee chain.

Citing key improvements, Lyons said workers will for the first-time be paid for mandated 30-minute meal breaks and will earn double time for holidays, compared with the prior time-and-a-half. He said baristas’ starting pay will be almost $18 an hour, with shift leads at about $19.

“Most of the workers are in their 20s and, for a lot of people, this is their first union job,” said Jordan Parshall, a shift lead at the 53 W. Jackson Boulevard branch. He said employees are happy with how the union performed.

Contract terms include two scheduled pay raises, said Parshall, who served on the bargaining committee and has worked for Intelligentsia since April 2021.

There was no immediate response from Intelligentsia, which also has stores in Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Austin, Texas. The company operates a roastery at 1850 W. Fulton St. whose workers are not unionized.

Lyons said the workers ratified the contract by roughly a 3-to-1 ratio. Other locations included in the agreement are at 3121 N. Broadway, 53 E. Randolph St., 1609 W. Division St., and 2642 N. Milwaukee Ave.

The IBEW’s approach to organize several stores into one bargaining unit contrasts with Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, which is seeking union contracts on a store-by-store basis. Starbucks is bitterly opposing the nationwide union campaign, while the local Intelligentsia employees have gotten a contract just four months after a vote that certified their union membership.

Lyons said the bargaining with Intelligentsia went more smoothly than most contract negotiations, especially for a first deal. “They really took our issues to heart and they are a company that cares about their employees,” he said.

The contract also includes minimum shift call times and training opportunities, Lyons said.

Local 1220 Business Manager John Rizzo called the contract “a wonderful first step for the unit.” He said, “This deal will serve them very well for the next couple of years.” The union also represents staff at Colectivo coffee, where Lyons said bargaining continues.

The IBEW represents about 775,000 workers and retirees in a range of industries.

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