Sunday, July 21, 2013

Coffee Workers Unionizing

Many of us are abundantly aware, as both parents and citizens, of how hard it is for young people to establish meaningful career paths these days. Part-time and contract work abounds, as do minimum wage jobs, despite the fact that we have a very educated population. Corporations continue to sit on record profits as they enjoy low corporate tax rates that fail to create jobs.

Many of the lowest-paying positions are in the service sector, especially coffee shops that continue to grow at very healthy rates. Although I am sure the right-wing will be consternated, there is good news out of Halifax. The Globe and Mail has a story detailing a push by those working in coffee emporiums to unionize:

Employees at a Just Us! coffee shop in Halifax successfully joined Local 2 of the Service Employees International Union.

Workers at two Second Cup outlets in the city also recently voted whether to join the same union, though the Labour Board has yet to release their results.

Personally, I think it is long overdue, largely because such jobs, although traditionally part-time positions, are turning into long-term jobs thanks to the dearth of career opportunities today.

Not everyone, however, feels this way:

Labour organizing in the service industry has been traditionally low for both ideological and economic reasons, said David Doorey, a professor of labour and employment law at York University in Toronto.

“It is a highly competitive industry, and employers believe unionization will pose a threat to their profit margins,” he said in an email.

To get a flavour of some Globe reader reactions, take a look at a few of the comments accompanying the story, which range from sarcasm to mockery to outrage fueled by the fear that unionization will lead to higher prices for coffee. To say such blinkered outlooks disgust me would be an understatement.