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Just Us! pens deal with union

Moore: Employees were not dismissed for organizing

by Hilary Beaumont

Shay Enxuga and Elijah Williams at a rally outside the Spring Garden Road cafe in April. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)
Shay Enxuga and Elijah Williams at a rally outside the Spring Garden Road cafe in April. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)
Enxuga talks about how he was dismissed. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)
Enxuga talks about how he was dismissed. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)

After months of negotiations, Just Us! has reached a deal with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to unionize its Spring Garden Road café.

In a press release this afternoon, Just Us! general manager Debra Moore said the company will recognize the SEIU as the bargaining agent for the Spring Garden Road location.

Moore also said the company will hire back two workers, Shay Enxuga and Elijah Williams, who originally said they were dismissed in late March after management questioned them about unions and organizing. However, Moore maintains that the workers were not dismissed for attempting to unionize:*

“Just Us! and SEIU Local 2 have been having ongoing discussions and it has become apparent that there has been a misunderstanding between the parties,” Moore wrote.

“Just Us! did not terminate the employment of two of its employees for attempting to organize a Union at their Spring Garden location. The terminations were unrelated to union activity.

“As a good faith measure, however, Just Us! is willing to reinstate the employment of [the employees] to its Spring Garden location.”

Moore declined to comment for this story.

The union has accepted the Just Us! press release as fact and now agrees the company did not know about the unionization attempts prior to the dismissals, SEIU Local 2 spokesperson Jason Edwards said Friday afternoon.

"We've come to accept their release as being truth," Edwards said. "In their release they state that they were not aware and I think we've come to terms with that and signed off on that being the truth."

"I think that the term 'misunderstanding' is probably the best characterization."

He agreed Just Us! reinstated the employees as a good faith move, and to show they wanted to negotiate.

The SEIU representative was "incredibly excited" about the deal. "I think it's a jumping off point, a starting point, for a larger movement," he said.

"People with crappy jobs don't have to accept they have crappy jobs."

Ninety per cent of employees voted to unionize the Spring Garden Road café, Edwards said. Enxuga and Williams also voted.

Employees signed union cards up until June 26. Just Us! agreed to recognize the union if the SEIU could demonstrate the employees wanted one, Edwards said.

The café will automatically recognize the SEIU as the bargaining unit for any new Just Us! cafes that open in the future, Moore said. No Just Us! locations other than the Spring Garden Road café are currently unionized.

Edwards said he had heard indications that other Just Us! locations are also interested in unionizing. The deal gives those employees some degree of protection if they decide to organize, he said.

Co-op members and supervisors will not be represented by the union, according to the agreement.

Workers at the Spring Garden Road café began organizing in January.

On April 2, Enxuga and Williams told the Halifax Media Co-op they were dismissed on or around March 27 after a supervisor questioned them about unions and organizing.

Following their job termination, the workers and the SEIU held a rally in April.

"All we're asking is for our jobs back and for Just Us! to recognize our right to form a union," Enxuga said at the rally.

 

This story will be updated with more information as it becomes available.

*Clarification: HMC originally wrote that Moore said the employees were not dismissed. This was updated to read they were not dismissed for attempting to unionize. We regret this mistake.


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Topics: Labour
570 words

Comments

Re: Just Us! pens deal with union

 

I'm very pleased that Just Us! and SEIU Local 2 have reached a satisfactory conclusion to this series of events.

I think it is worth underscoring that the agreed upon text between JustUs! and SEIU says (in part), "Just Us! and SEIU Local 2 have been having ongoing discussions and it has become apparent that there has been a misunderstanding between the parties. Just Us! did not terminate the employment of two of its employees for attempting to organize a Union at their Spring Garden location. The terminations were unrelated to union activity."

In my view the reaction (in some quarters) to immediately associate the dismissal of these two employees to union activity was unwarranted and may have complicated the resolution of the issue. I applaud JustUs!'s good faith in reaching a satisfactory resolution to the dispute and its clear recognition of the rights of its employees to unionize if they so desire.

I've always had a great deal of faith in the JustUs initiative, and I'm delighted to have that faith reinvigorated by this turn of events.

Great! But . . .

On one hand, it's great news that Just Us! employees might be able to win some concessions, have a bit of job security, etc. Obviously, all of those little things make life and struggling easier. That they won these things out of a struggle is even better - nothing can replace that sort of concrete experience.
On the other hand: the SEIU are an unprincipled business union that represents motherfuckers like prison guards, that backed Mulclair's bid for NDP leadership, and more. That the SEIU is going to be skimming money off folks' paychecks for its politically backward ends is fucking shitty. Further, Just Us!, an employer I've heard many a horror story about, now gets to add "Unionized" alongside "Fair Trade" and all of the other bullshit labels they use to sell coffee: The yuppies get to pat themselves on the pack a little more firmly. Doesn't the thought make you gag?
Anyway - my point is not to denegrate the workers' struggle - only to emphasize that it's far from over. Now they've got to stand up against their green capitalist bosses at Just Us! and  their prison-industrial-complex-profiteer labour-aristocrat bosses at SEIU.

Continuer le combat!

PS I'm also not impressed that the SEIU agreed to Just Us!'s weird face-saving "not related to union activity" line. Seriously, does anyone buy that BS?
 

congrats on the hard-fought

congrats on the hard-fought win! although i hope no-one's buying moore's bullshit about the dismissals. pretty pathetic attempt to save face, and way too late.

and surely the seiu realize

and surely the seiu realizes this. edwards' quotes make for some pretty defeatist & disappointing reading. no need to grovel to the bosses.

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