Manitoba

Vote to unionize at 2nd Stella's location gives workers 'unified voice': UFCW

Employees at a second Stella’s Cafe location in Winnipeg have voted to unionize.

Vote at Sherbrook Street Stella's location follows allegations of mistreatment

Employees Stella’s Cafe on Sherbrook Street voted to unionize Friday. (Ron Boileau/Radio-Canada)

Employees at a second Stella's Café location in Winnipeg have voted to unionize.

A release sent to media from UFCW Local 832 late Friday said a majority of the 68 workers at the Sherbrook Street Stella's location said yes to joining the union.

The move follows a vote at the Winnipeg restaurant chain's Osborne Village location Thursday that saw 20 of the 23 employees there also decide to join the union.

"It's a positive thing for the workers at Stella's. They now have a unified voice to bring their concerns forward to management" UFCW Local 832 president Jeff Traeger said Saturday.

"We're confident that we can do a lot of good things for the people at Stella's. It's not going to happen in one day or one contract — but the process is now started so we can begin the journey to providing a better workplace and better working conditions."

Winnipeg restaurateurs are taking the opportunity to revisit or augment their HR policies after more than 275 disclosures of workplace incidents blew up on social media under the tag "Not My Stella's." 2:22

Traeger said roughly 65 per cent of the Sherbrook Street location's employees voted in favour of joining the union.

He said the union plans to meet with employees from both unionized locations early in the new year to discuss issues, and will then meet with management to begin scheduling dates to negotiate their first contract.

In an emailed statement, Stella's owners Tore Sohlberg and Lehla Abreder said they respected the outcome of the vote. 

"Our priority is ensuring that we have a respectful, supportive and healthy workplace where employees can thrive and grow in a safe, positive environment," they said. 

Social media campaign

The votes followed a social media campaign about workplace treatment at the restaurants called Not My Stella's. Shortly after the Instagram account went up in November, dozens of current and former employees posted instances of sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying and abuse from senior staff.

As well as the issues brought up during the online campaign, Traeger​ said he expects the union to help employees negotiate things like scheduling, benefits and how gratuities are paid out.

He said unionization is overdue in the restaurant industry, and added he doesn't think customers will mind paying more for a meal if it means restaurant workers are getting paid more and receiving benefits.

Three former Stella's Cafe employees behind an online campaign to bring attention to what they call workplace harassment, unfair treatment of staff, racism, and sexual assault at the Winnipeg restaurant chain have outlined what they'd like to see done about their concerns. 2:43

"Do you want to eat a cheaper dinner off the backs of somebody that's struggling to make ends meet even if they're working as many hours as they can get?" he said.

"For me, personally, I would rather pay a dollar or two extra at dinner time to make sure that the employees that are working hard to serve my food are taken care of properly."

The UFCW will represent all servers, dishwashers, cooks, hosts and baristas at the both locations, according to the union's Friday release.

Stella's has seven locations in Winnipeg and employs more than 500 people in total.

Traeger wouldn't comment when asked if other Stella's locations are considering holding votes on whether or not to join the union.

The UFCW is a private-sector union that represents more than 250,000 workers across Canada.

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