What once looked like a solitary stand-off between angry baristas and an incompetent employer has become a tidal wave of Halifax cafe workers demanding workplace regulation.
After the successful union effort at Just Us! Spring Garden in June, employees at two Second Cup franchises have begun organizing their own workplaces. The long-term goal, explains Service Employees International Union Local 2 organizer Jason Edwards, is to create a city-wide bargaining unit. “That requires a fairly high market density of unionized shops.”
Six workers at Second Cup Quinpool---formerly the shop’s entire staff---say they unanimously voted to unionize with the SEIU within weeks. The change came at the cost of five of those baristas’ jobs. The SEIU has filed an unfair labor practice, alleging that the dismissals were illegal.
Shelby Kennedy is the only original employee left. She says that franchise owner Kathleen Attis (who refused to comment) threatened to fire her while they were working together. “It was intimidating,” she says.
On Spring Garden, Second Cup also had a union vote to join SEIU 2 on Monday. Not everyone is happy about it. Ashton Manktelow, 29, has been working closely with Second Cup management for three years. “They didn’t give Chris (Macaloney, the Spring Garden manager) a chance,” Manktelow says. “They didn’t follow procedure.”
Edwards disagrees. “The workers …followed Nova Scotia labour law and asserted their right to have a vote for a union,” he responds. “I am unsure how this characterization…could be anyone's impression of the events.”
At press time, the Second Cup Spring Garden vote was yet to be counted. But cafe workers aren’t waiting around: a network called Baristas Rise Up has had several meetings. “Baristas are getting together and trying to figure out the best way to support each other in order to improve their working conditions,” states Moe Kabbera, a pro-union Second Cup employee.