BUFFALO, NY – Employees at Spot Coffee, the grande dame of Buffalo’s independent coffee shops voted overwhelmingly to form a union Tuesday. The vote affects 90 workers at the cafe’s three locations in Buffalo and Williamsville, NY. Spot Coffee workers will join Workers United Rochester local.
“It’s really a relatively new thing to organize baristas, so this is a very groundbreaking campaign and it’s really significant,” Workers United organizer Jaz Brisack told the Buffalo News. “I think that it will empower people to realize what’s possible. Other places will say, ‘If the Spot workers can do it, why can’t we?’”
Although more than 13 million Americans work in food service industries, less than five percent of these workers are unionized. Restaurant workers face daunting challenges, including poor working conditions, little job security, rampant sexual harassment and sub-minimum wages. However, labor organizations like Workers United and the United Food and Commercial Workers, have been aggressively campaigning to organize the restaurant industry for several years.
Workers United, which is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and represents 90,000 workers across a number of industries, has been particularly energetic in its organizing efforts. Over the last three years, the union has organized personal trainers in Toronto and nail salon employees in New York. Last year, employees at a Tim Horton’s franchise in Canora, Saskatchewan, won a court battle to join the union.