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Sunergos Coffee workers strike across Louisville: ‘We cannot stall any longer’

Tall yellow sign for SUNERGOS COFFEE next to buildings
Jacob Munoz
/
LPM
Unionized Sunergos Coffee workers are on strike in Louisville after months of negotiations without a contract.

Workers with Louisville-based Sunergos Coffee are walking off the job at all five stores from Friday to Sunday. Their union wants the company to meet key negotiating demands after months without a contract agreement.

Employees at the chain voted in January to unionize, but a negotiated contract has yet to materialize. In contrast, workers at another local coffee shop, Heine Brothers’ Coffee, came to a deal with their employer six months after approving a union.

The Sunergos union argues the company is to blame for a lack of an agreement, and its Black Friday weekend strike aims to pressure leadership to meet its demands.

The move comes days after union members threatened to strike. Clove Harrington, a barista and member of the union’s bargaining committee, said earlier this week that a contract was overdue.

“The decision to announce that we could go on strike is just us saying, ‘We have had enough of this, and we are prepared to take action because we cannot stall any longer,’” they said.

The union had a one-day strike in July over a lack of bargaining progress.

Harrington said the company isn’t interested in two key union demands: increased wages and a “just cause” termination clause.

According to the union, the minimum wage is $8.25 an hour at Sunergos. Harrington said the committee wants to raise that to $12, while the company prefers a $10 start and a $11.50 cap on top pay, 25 cents higher than the current limit.

“It’s a really low wage offer, it does not meet any of our needs at all. And they know that,” Harrington said.

They added that while the two sides see eye-to-eye on some changes, such as balancing tip pools for closing-shift workers, they haven’t finalized any agreements yet.

The workers union has also filed several unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, a federal agency overseeing workplace organizing.

In those charges, the union alleges the company has engaged in anti-union activities and isn't bargaining in good faith.

Sunergos representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

Bekah Ryherd, another bargaining committee member, said she’s worked full-time at the company for seven years and feels employees’ concerns aren’t being taken seriously.

“Every conversation we've had at the table about money, it comes with a lot of baggage from us, where we try to explain our situations,” Rhyherd said. “They're just kind of not believing us or questioning how good we are at budgeting, which is just very insulting as adults.”

She said she wants to secure better wages and workplace protections for younger workers.

Sunergos workers aren’t the only coffee chain employees waiting for their first union contracts in the Louisville area. Earlier this month, workers at several local Starbucks locations joined a national strike on the company’s promotional Red Cup Day to protest a lack of bargaining progress.

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