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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Boulder business’ employees vote to unionize

Workers at Spruce Confections recently voted to organize for better pay and benefits.

BOULDER, Colo. — A group of baristas and bakers in Boulder will be celebrating Sunday morning between serving up cups of coffee.

Workers at Spruce Confections will hold a rally outside the company’s location on Pearl Street celebrating their recent vote to unionize.

“I’ll be inside making coffee drinks, but I’ll be supporting them from afar,” said barista Micah Butler.

On Monday, votes were tallied from workers at the company’s four coffee shops and warehouse. They voted 31-9 to join the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco, and Grain Millers Union Local 26, according to an organizer with the local union.

“First and foremost, I think we all want a seat at the table,” said Noah Hill, a barista at Spruce Confections. “We want a voice to discuss decisions that impact all of our livelihoods.”

Hill said the past couple years have been rough for baristas and especially bakers.

“We’ve been working through labor shortages,” Hill said. “We’ve been denied raises. We worked through the pandemic without health care, and that has all been very tough.”

Hill said Spruce Confections employs about 70 to 90 people at a time, and he’s noticed turnover is a problem. There are seven open positions listed on the company’s website. 

“A lot of people have left,” Hill said.

Hill and coworkers like Butler want better pay and benefits. Butler said the company only offers health insurance to employees who work 38 hours a week.

“As a barista, my shifts are like about six-and-a-half hours long, so the only way that I could even make it to 38 hours is if I worked seven days a week,” Butler said.

The owner of Spruce Confections, David Cohen, provided the following statement when asked for comment by 9NEWS:

Of my 29 years in business, 2020 was the hardest. We were fortunate enough to be spared thanks to the Care’s Act and a dedicated bad-ass crew that stayed safe and did whatever it took to keep the show on the road.

Ultimately my intention is to set the example for how to work harmoniously with a Union in a smaller business like Spruce. But I have a lot of learning and soon-to-be negotiations to focus on at this time.

I’m extremely proud of my staff. I’m responsible to advocate for both those that want to unionize and those that don’t. I also need to make sure the business survives, rent obligations are met, loans are paid back, etc.

At the end of this process my wish is for the Spruce community to be stronger, more motivated and happier than ever. There’s probably going to be some turbulence on the flight because there’s only so much a business of this size can accommodate. We always try to be ahead of our similar sized competition in terms of pay and benefits, we use virtually no automation, and we use expensive ingredients that are costing more and more by the week. Plus we have to keep our prices down so we can continue to supply the best local coffee shops.

No matter what, I’m going to do my best by all involved and I hope to be able to speak more in due time.

Workers who supported the effort to unionize plan to gather outside the café on Pearl Street for a rally at 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

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