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Peace Coffee Is Unionizing

The Twin Cities coffee roaster—whose motto is "In It for Good"—refused to voluntarily recognize its organizing workforce.

Unionizing Peace Coffee workers.
UFCW Local 663

We’ve seen it with No Evil Foods, we’ve seen it with Amy’s Kitchen: do-gooder brands that refuse to acknowledge their unionizing workforces.

Peace Coffee is the latest.

On Wednesday, workers at the Minneapolis-based coffee roaster announced their intention to form a union in collaboration with United Food & Commercial Workers Local 663.

“It has been something we talked about for years, socially after work,” says production roaster Peder Swanson, who reached out to UFCW. “We definitely noticed, even before review time this year, that our wages were not where we wanted them to be, and where we think is fair.”

Most workers make between $15 and $25 per hour, depending on their job title, Swanson says, adding a list of additional grievances: workload, staffing, expectations, and work-life balance.

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Around 75% of the company’s 24 staff workers—who handle receiving, roasting, production, shipping, and marketing—signed union authorization cards that were submitted to the National Labor Relations Board.

You might expect a company with brand messaging like “We’re starry-eyed dreamers who believe in bicycle-power, being nice, and bringing neighbors, farmers, and the community together” to happily recognize its workers’ union, thus eliminating the need for an NLRB-officiated election. But you’d be wrong: Management at Peace Coffee refused to voluntarily accept the union.

“It would have been a great option for them to recognize our union,” says Swanson, who has been at Peace for four years. “They have been good, but we know they can do better.”

“Peace Coffee does amazing things for the community, it’s time for us as employees to be treated with the same care and respect,” fellow roaster Jade Hampton adds in a statement from UFCW.

PR reps from Peace Coffee didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. (Update: Lee Wallace, the company’s CEO and “Queen Bean,” issued this online statement late Wednesday night.)

There’s no set date for the NLRB election. Should worker yeas outweigh the nays: blammo, Peace Coffee becomes a union shop. They’d join 1.3 million North American workers who currently belong to UFCW, including 17,000 in Minnesota.

“Lack of communication with management has become disjointed, so we’re really looking forward to collaborating and having our seat at the table, having our voices heard,” Swanson says.

Launched in 1996, Peace Coffee expanded to four retail cafes, including the flagship shop at 3262 Minnehaha Ave. in Minneapolis, but it those locations folded during the pandemic. The organically minded, fair-traded coffee maker maintains its wholesale business and sells beans at grocery stores around the Twin Cities. All of the organizing workers work at Peace Coffee’s warehouse facility near Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue.

Elsewhere in coffee labor news: The first-floor Starbucks at Mall of America just became the coffee giant’s fifth unionizing shop in Minnesota. In late 2020, a union push at Minneapolis-based Spyhouse Coffee was narrowly defeated after months of bitterness between workers and ownership.