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Baristas at The Coffee Tree Roasters vote to unionize

The Coffee Tree Roasters location in Shadyside.
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The National Labor Relations Board will take between 7 and 10 days to certify the Coffee Tree Roasters unionization vote, according to the union representing the chain's staff.

Baristas at The Coffee Tree Roasters have voted to unionize following a contentious battle with their employer, according to the union representing the workers.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 announced Tuesday that employees of the Pittsburgh-area coffee chain voted 17-to-3 in favor of unionization. The National Labor Relations Board still must certify the result. Local 1776 said the certification process usually takes between seven and 10 days. It noted that Coffee Tree’s owners have challenged nine ballots beyond the 20 included in the tally reported Tuesday.

“It feels amazing to be a part of this and to get the win for our union,” Riley Davis, an employee at Coffee Tree’s Mt. Lebanon store, said in a statement Tuesday. “I have seen so many of my previous coworkers leave for better wages and change, and to see that now we have a voice to improve our workplace makes me excited to make it great for the coworkers I have now."

A Coffee Tree manager declined to comment on the outcome of the vote Tuesday.

While campaigning for the union, baristas complained of inadequate staffing, low wages and insufficient COVID-19 safety measures. They also accused the chain of firing a staff member due to his involvement in the unionization bid. That action prompted Local 1776 to file charges with the National Labor Relations Board, which is still investigating the matter.

The terminated employee, Liam Tinker, acknowledged that he had shown up late for a shift before being fired. But he said the penalty was inconsistent with how other baristas had been treated previously.

The workers also accused the coffee shops’ owners of hiring consultants who tried to persuade employees to oppose the unionization effort. In addition, Local 1776 President Wendell Young said Tuesday that, before the union vote, Coffee Tree adopted stricter workplace policies that contributed to the firing of a second barista.