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Just Us! Coffeehouse baristas ratify first collective agreement

Union calls it a victory for everyone in the service industry

by Rana Encol

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)

Just Us! Coffeehouse baristas at the Spring Garden Road location ratified their first collective agreement last night, according to Sebastien Labelle, SEIU Local 2 representative.

The agreement creates more full-time positions, which makes benefits accessible to more employees.

The agreement also deals with how tips are managed, how schedules are made, and provides for wage increases by seniority and indexed for inflation.

When schedules are created, there will be an attempt to create full-time positions so that hours won't be split up over a larger amount of part-time workers, Labelle explained.

“This is a great victory not only for the baristas at Just Us! but for everyone in the service industry,” Labelle said.

Charlie Huntley, 25, who worked for almost a year-and-a-half at the Spring Garden location and was part of the collective bargaining committee, shouldered much of the unionization efforts after Shay Enxuga and Elijah Williams were allegedly dismissed in June (only to be offered their jobs back following a lengthy labour dispute).

Huntley explained that ten people arenow  unionized, one of whom is a member of the co-operative and assistant team lead.

Huntley also expressed how the workers were excited about setting “higher standards for service jobs, especially because Just Us! is a company that is not making loads of money. If Just Us! can do it, so can other businesses,” they said.

“It feels fabulous, it happened [about a year] ago that we first started talking. It's super exciting as a young person, a lefty, to have won a thing – and that thing being a union, our collective agreement,” Huntley added.

Labelle said the next steps are to put in place the new rules that were agreed upon, for the workers to now elect representatives amongst themselves to act as shop stewards and make sure the agreement is respected.

Huntley expressed hope the milestone would inspire other co-operatives: “At the end of the day it is the people who are staying there the longest who will have a stake, if it's high turnaround for everyone it will be hard to see a union through.”

“I hope they will see this as a positive win or gain in the workplace,” Huntley said. “We are now super excited to have this in place.”

Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-operative specializes in fair trade organic coffee, with the tagline “People and the planet before profits.” Part of the company’s stated purpose is “to foster a more democratic workplace and supply chain, where everyone can participate and benefit.”

Just Us! is incorporated as a worker co-operative. According to its website, a co-op is “another way of doing business based on community ownership and democratic principles. It is not designed to maximize profits or returns for investors. All employees are eligible to become members after working two years and making a modest investment.”

Management at Just Us! could not be reached for comment by the time of publication.

--- with files from Hilary Beaumont and Hillary Bain Lindsay

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Topics: Labour
493 words


It would be very interesting

It would be very interesting to hear what the co-op members-owners and managers have to say about all this. They start off with this good idea of a co-operative, but it seems that their principles got watered down eventually.

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