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Heine Brothers’ Coffee workers file complaints against employer, seek union vote

Heine Brothers' Coffee employee Sabrina Lindsey speaks to the press about their attempts to unionize and the reactions they've seen from their employer.
Heine Brothers' Coffee employee Sabrina Lindsey speaks to the press about their attempts to unionize and the reactions they've seen from their employer.

A group of Heine Brothers’ Coffee workers and the local union supporting them are taking further steps against the company.

They filed charges last week alleging illegal anti-union activities by Heine Brothers’ to the National Labor Review Board, a federal agency that oversees labor relations and can investigate wrongdoings.

The baristas and union claim, among other complaints, that the company monitored employees’ union activity outside of work and forced them to attend meetings discouraging organizing efforts, which they argue violated the National Labor Relations Act.

While the NLRB can issue orders to remedy labor law violations, including through job reinstatements, it cannot impose penalties against companies.

During a downtown press conference on Monday, the organizing workers and union representatives also announced they will file with the NLRB for an official union vote. All of the company’s baristas will be eligible to participate.

If a majority of baristas vote in favor of unionizing, they would all be represented by the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers, a branch of the Service Employees International Union. According to Robert Smith, the secretary-treasurer of the NCFO, an election could begin 20-30 days after filing.

“We will stand by them the way they have stood by each other. They have been relentless in working toward this. I mean, every night and every weekend, they have put forth the effort to bring about their union,” Smith said at the event.

Sabrina Lindsey, who works at Heine Brothers’ Gardiner Lane location and helped begin unionizing efforts in January, criticized the company’s treatment of workers.

“I know that we deserve better. We deserve better wages. We deserve dignity, respect, clear communication and transparency in our workplaces,” Lindsey said.

Heine Brothers’ workers originally announced their intentions to organize in April. The company attracted suspicion last month when it abruptly closed its Douglass Loop location. The union-busting charges filed last week cited that store’s closure as an act of retaliation against organizing workers.

Heine Brothers' Coffee gives financial support to Louisville Public Media, which WFPL is part of.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.

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