Show Support for the Tompkins County Coffee Workers Union’s Struggle to Be Recognized as a Union with Bargaining Power at the Ithaca Coffee Company!

Pick Up Your Support Button Today at the Tompkins County Workers’ Center, 115 The Commons (above Autumn Leaves Used Books), Ithaca

Please Drop By One of the Two Ithaca Coffee Company Locations (311 E. Green St., at the base of State St. going up Route 79 and at Triphammer Mall, both in Ithaca), Buy a Cup of Joe, and Tell the Workers There That You Support Their Right to Organize a Union!

About six weeks ago, several workers visited the Tompkins County Workers’ Center with concerns about how to address some of the problems they were experiencing at their worksite, the Ithaca Coffee Company (owned by Triphammer Wine and Spirits), a company that specializes in selling Fair Trade coffee.

During our discussion, it became clear that the workers had made substantial efforts to bring their concerns to management but without effect. They thus decided that they needed union representation, in this case, an independent union made up of themselves. Says one Ithaca Coffee Company worker, “We’re forming a union because we like what we do. We want to spread the knowledge that we’ve gained, and we want to keep working, but under better working conditions for ourselves and for future employees. We respect the company and [owner] Julie Crowley’s hard work, but we also respect ourselves”.

Within several weeks, the workers created an Organizing Committee composed of 75% of the nonmanagerial, nonsupervisory workforce. They were interested in not only creating an independent union, but a union they hoped, in the long run, could affect the local coffee industry more generally (especially in the realm of low-wage work). They thus decided, on February 21, 2010, to form the Tompkins County Coffee Workers Union (TCCWU)!

One of the primary goals of the TCCWU, in the words of another worker, is to improve the functioning of the Ithaca Coffee Company by giving more voice to the workers (those who daily interact with customers and see where there is room for improvement) and to negotiate conditions that would allow the workers to better serve the needs of the store with greater enthusiasm and good will.

A large majority of the workforce signed a petition seeking ‘voluntary recognition’ for their union. In doing so, they firmly believed they were not only asserting their democratic right, but also as the only unionized coffee shop in Tompkins County, would bring ‘competitive advantage’ to the Ithaca Coffee Company. Management, however, strongly rebuffed the workers. Says TCCWU Member and Ithaca Coffee Company worker Kirsten Sundin, “I think it’s a shame the negative feelings the word ‘unionize’ brings to people’s minds. Today’s unions can be a great local collaboration between labor and management creating a terrific place to work”.

With no other choice workers then decided, on March 12th, to file a petition for an election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The road between then and now, April 1st, has been a rocky one as we have discovered just how important it is that our federal legislators pass the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to unionize at their workplace (the strongest protection possible to create a level playing field for workers).

An NLRB election is scheduled for April 21st and the Tompkins County Coffee Workers Union needs our support! Please consider stopping by one of the locations mentioned above and letting the workers know that you support their right to organize a union. And to let Ithaca Coffee Company management know just how many people in this community support the idea of Ithaca’s first unionized coffee shop!