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Peace Coffee Workers Win Union Election!

The Twin Cities coffee roaster—whose motto is "In It for Good"—refused to voluntarily recognize the union. That ultimately didn't matter.

Unionizing Peace Coffee workers.
UFCW Local 663

Peace Coffee is officially a union shop.

On Thursday, 17 of the company’s warehouse workers voted “overwhelmingly” to join United Food & Commercial Workers Local 663 in an election officiated by the National Labor Relations Board. They’ve now joined the 1.3 million North American workers who belong to UFCW, including around 17,000 in Minnesota.

“This is just the beginning of the journey,” Sandro Garcia, a veteran Peace Coffee production associate, says in a statement issued by UFCW Local 663. “We will soon begin to bargain for our first contract. I am looking forward to a much-needed change for my coworkers, our company and our families so we improve all our lives.”

Peace Coffee workers had to take the difficult path to unionization. Back in April, the Minneapolis-based company—whose brand messaging features copy like “We’re starry-eyed dreamers who believe in bicycle-power, being nice, and bringing neighbors, farmers, and the community together”—refused to accept its unionizing workforce, paving the way for Thursday’s NLRB election. Lee Wallace, the CEO and “Queen Bean” of Peace Coffee, issued this baffling online statement shortly after the union went public.

“It has been something we talked about for years, socially after work,” Peder Swanson, the production roaster who initially reached out to UFCW, told Racket in April. “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.”

Among their grievances, per Swanson: pay (most staffers make between $15 and $25 per hour), workload, staffing, expectations, and work-life balance.

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

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

Elsewhere in local caffeinated labor news: The steady march of Starbucks union victories currently includes two Minnesota shops, with several more awaiting their elections.