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Workers at Peet's Coffee and Tea Vote Against Union Representation
At a secret ballot election held August 20th and 21st by the National Labor Relations Board, workers at Peet's store 221 in downtown Santa Cruz voted 11-6 against union representation. The results came as a surprise to union supporters and organizers, who had expected a more even split between "yes" and "no" votes.
As soon as the union efforts were brought to the company's attention, they started holding mandatory staff meetings and talking with employees individually. Support for the union was much stronger when the effort began, which leads union supporters to believe that these meetings, (which the company paid employees to attend), persuaded many undecided and uninformed members of the staff to vote against union representation.
After many months of organizing efforts, an election finally took place over two days at Peet's Coffee and Tea in Santa Cruz. The results came as a surprise to organizers and to employees in favor of unionization.
Brendon Constans, an employee at Peet's, had expected a much closer vote. "From talking with employees and from the vibe I got at recent company and employee meetings, I really thought that we had a chance. I figured it would be close, but that we still could win. When they started counting the votes, and so many came back as 'no', I was really quite surprised and very disappointed."
Constans has been spearheading the campaign, along with fellow employees and with support from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) Local 839, who would've represented them if they'd won. The union drive started about three months ago when workers saw the company growing and profits increasing, yet at the same time cutting back on certain benefits such as sick pay and limiting the amount of hours they could work. After some research, Constans contacted the UFCW, who, after hearing their concerns, sent an organizer out to help with their efforts.
As soon as the union efforts were brought to the company's attention, they started holding mandatory staff meetings and talking with employees individually. Peet's main argument against unionization was that it was a great company and that the employees couldn't do any better with a union than they're doing now. They also kept insisting that the atmosphere in the store would change if a union were in place, and that the open communication that staff and management now have would no longer exist.
Support for the union was much stronger when the effort began, which leads union supporters to believe that these meetings, (which the company paid employees to attend), persuaded many undecided and uninformed members of the staff to vote against union representation.
"We believe that if more employees had attended the numerous union meetings we had, rather than just the company sponsored ones, they would have had much more accurate information, and many more would have voted 'yes'," says Constans.
After receiving the election results, Pat O'Dea, CEO of Peet's Coffee and Tea, sent a letter to the store, thanking everyone for voting and announcing a meeting to be held next week to address employees' concerns.
Employees must wait a year before pursuing union representation again. Says Constans, "If I'm still working for them, and they haven't addressed our concerns, you better believe we'll try again. And next time, we'll win."