A group of Heine Brothers’ Coffee workers and the local union that supports them are taking further action against the company.
They filed a complaint last week alleging illegal union busting by Heine Brothers with the National Labor Review Board, a federal agency that oversees labor relations and can investigate wrongdoing.
The baristas and the union allege, among other complaints, that the company monitored employees’ union activity outside of work and forced them to attend meetings that discouraged organizing efforts, which they say violates the national labor relations law.
While the NLRB can give orders to remedy violations of labor law, including through reintegration into employment, it cannot impose sanctions on companies.
At a downtown press conference on Monday, organizing workers and union representatives also announced they would file with the NLRB for a formal union vote. All baristas in the company will be able to participate.
If a majority of baristas vote to unionize, they would all be represented by the National Conference of Firefighters and Oilers, a branch of the Service Employees International Union. According to Robert Smith, the NCFO secretary-treasurer, an election could begin 20 to 30 days after the filing.
“We will support them as they have supported each other. They have worked tirelessly in this direction. I mean, every night and every weekend they put in effort to achieve their union,” Smith said at the event.
Sabrina Lindsey, who works at the Heine Brothers site at Gardiner Lane and helped launch organizing efforts in January, criticized the company’s treatment of workers.
“I know we deserve better. We deserve better wages. We deserve dignity, respect, clear communication and transparency in our workplaces,” Lindsey said.
The workers of the Heine brothers originally announced their intention to organize in April. The company attracted suspicion last month when it abruptly closed its Douglass Loop location. Union-busting charges filed last week cite the store’s closure as an act of retaliation against the workers’ organization.
Heine Brothers’ Coffee provides financial support to Louisville Public Media, of which WFPL is a part.