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Black Coffee Roasting employees begin process of forming union

Black Coffee Roasting employees in process of forming a union. PHOTO NBC MONTANA{p}{/p}
Black Coffee Roasting employees in process of forming a union. PHOTO NBC MONTANA

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Employees at Black Coffee Roasting in Missoula are attempting to start their own union. They say the effort comes after ownership dismissed requests for improved working conditions.

“When you’re bargaining on your own there's really not much power you have in a situation,” Keefe Farr said.

The Black Coffee Roasting employees behind the Third Wave Workers Union know strength comes in numbers.

After bringing problems to their employer individually, employees say they felt unheard until they organized.

“I think our collective organizing was responded to really well. When we asked for things individually we weren't listened to, and then when we came together as a group and asked for them, that's when we started being heard,” Marley Pine said.

It started out as a collective bargaining unit, which sparked the idea of going for full union protection.

Workers are calling for a livable wage, but that's not the only concern. Working conditions and benefits are also on the table.

“Like a lot of other service industry workers, food workers especially, we just worked our way through a pandemic, and most of us had no sick and save time, and we were frontline essential workers in some cases,” Farr added.

Co-owner of Black Coffee Roasting Company Matthew McQuilkin says he is still learning the ins and outs of what the unionization process looks like for his business, but would prefer the company be able to address employees’ needs internally.

“We try really hard to take care of our people, and we have always had a great relationship with our employees,” McQuilkin said. “I would prefer to move forward in a way where we work together and communicate well to come up with a plan that makes people feel secure in their jobs and gets them all the things they want from a union but do it internally.”

Employees will vote on officially becoming a union in mid-April. In the meantime, they’re feeling motivated by the community support behind their movement.

“We are looking to the community for support. If you support what we are doing, the idea of collective bargaining and collective voices in the workplace, we just ask that you come by and let us know how you feel, just come in and get a cup of coffee,” Farr said.

You can find more details about the Third Wave Workers Union by clicking here.

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