Just Us! coffee shop says it's first to unionize in Canada

A Nova Scotia coffee shop has become the first in Canada to ratify a deal to unionize.

Baristas, owners reached agreement after summer of protests

Protests were held this past summer over what some claimed was the firing of staff who were trying to form the union. That dispute was later resolved.

A Nova Scotia coffee shop says it has become the first in Canada to unionize.

Baristas and the owners of the fair-trade co-op Just Us! in Wolfville, N.S., reached the agreement last week. It comes after summer protests over what some claimed was the firing of staff who were trying to form the union. That dispute was later resolved.

Barista Charlie Huntley said the union drive started six months ago because of concerns about workplace conditions. 

"There was some resistance from management. I think that they had a knee-jerk response and thought that it wasn't going to fit for the co-op … but I think that they've really come around now," Huntley said.

The union, Service Employees International Union Local 2, said it's the first time baristas have unionized in Canada.

The collective agreement covers wages, the number of full-time positions and the stability of shifts.

Huntley said unionizing Just Us! sets an example for bigger coffee chains. .

"If Just Us! can do it, there's no reason that the big [coffee] corporations can't handle having a model, a union, as well," Huntley said.

Debra Moore, general manager of Just Us! said the owners never opposed the union.

"In fact a worker co-op and a union are all about the same things — they're all about workers rights," she said.

Moore said it was a good deal for both sides.

"The union brings this really strong HR, kind of procedures and policies around the administration for staff and co-ops bring the whole democracy, the whole ownership piece to it," she said.

Moore said other companies in similar situations could learn from the co-op.

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