Workers at Intelligentsia cafes vote to unionize

It becomes the third coffee chain in the Chicago area to be part of a labor organizing push.

SHARE Workers at Intelligentsia cafes vote to unionize
Intelligentsia’s five cafes in Chicago have become the third coffee chain in the region to have employees who have organized with a union.

Intelligentsia’s five cafes in Chicago have become the third coffee chain in the region to have employees who have organized with a union.

Sun-Times files

Intelligentsia’s five cafes in Chicago have become the third coffee chain in the region, following Colectivo and Starbucks, to have employees who have organized with a union.

Employees at the Intelligentsia locations voted to affiliate with Local 1220 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The decision applies to about 27 workers at the stores. But a count of mailed ballots supervised Monday by the National Labor Relations Board showed most employees did not vote.

The NLRB said the vote was 9-1 in favor of the union. A majority of workers who vote determines the outcome of union certification elections.

Local 1220 Business Representative Brett Lyons said the low turnout isn’t especially worrisome to the union. He said workers strongly supported the organizing effort and the local will help build solidarity for bargaining the first contract.

The union tried to include in the bargaining unit about 15 employees at Intelligentsia’s Chicago Roasting Works, 1850 W. Fulton St. Lyons said Intelligentsia argued the workers are managers who should not be unionized, and the union agreed to an election only for the store employees. He said the local still intends to organize the roastery workers.

A company spokesperson had no immediate comment. Its Chicago stores are at 53 E. Randolph St., 53 W. Jackson Blvd., 3121 N. Broadway, 1609 W. Division St. and 2642 N. Milwaukee Ave. The Chicago-based chain in 2015 was sold to Peet’s Coffee but operates as a separate brand.

Last August, workers at Colectivo Coffee voted to organize with the IBEW. Lyons said workers at five stores in the Chicago area and 16 Wisconsin locations are bargaining their first contract.

Employees at six Chicago-area locations for the Starbucks chain have voted to affiliate with Workers United, part of the Service Employees International Union. Staff at three other Starbucks in the area have voted against unionizing. Workers United is organizing many Starbucks stores across the country.

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