Spruce Confections workers make historic unionization push in Boulder

BOULDER — As the ongoing John Deere (NYSE: DE) and Kellogg Co. (NYSE: K) strikes shine a spotlight on collective worker action across the country, Boulder is stepping onto the scene with a unionization push at Spruce Confections LLC.

In a fight for improved pay, benefits and working conditions, a majority of the roughly 70 non-management employees at the local Boulder bakery chain have signed union cards in hopes of joining the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco, and Grain Millers Union Local 26.

Should they succeed, the Spruce Confections workers will be the first food-service employees in Boulder County to unionize, according to the BCTGM.

“There’s a lot of excitement in the air and a feeling that we’re on the brink of real change,” Spruce warehouse worker Roscoe Cichon told BizWest.

Spruce, which did not immediately comment Friday, doesn’t provide workers with retirement benefits, most employees don’t accrue paid time off beyond federal holidays and, until recently, non-managers were not provided with primary health care benefits, according to the union.

“All of us want to work for a company that values us, and I think collective action is the best way to make our voices heard,” said Noah Hill, a barista at Spruce’s Pearl Street location. “We want our voices heard.”

Spruce workers are taking inspiration from union actions in places such as Ottumwa, Iowa, where Deere and Co. factory employees are striking during contentious labor contract negotiations.

“People all over the country are standing up for themselves and their co-workers,” Hill said.

Since signing union cards, Spruce workers have not had substantive conversations with management about their effort, but there also hasn’t been significant pushback, employees said.

“It’s a ‘no news is good news’ kind of thing right now,” Cichon said.

The hope of employees is that Spruce management will voluntarily recognize their union push.

“We’re just waiting on management’s response as to whether they’ll voluntarily recognize us,” Hill said. “I think that’d be the right thing to do.”

The Denver-based Local 26 represents manufacturing, production, maintenance, and sanitation workers at bakeries and food production operations around Colorado.

“The workers themselves are the union,” BCTGM organizer Nic Hochstedler said. “We have staff to stand with them and to fight with them, but it’s the workers who are on the front lines of this organizing. Our role is to guide them through this process, help them negotiate their first contract and protect workers against retaliation.”

Spruce workers said that if they’re successful they hope to be a model for other employee groups in Boulder. 

“I’d love to see this become the start of other workers unionizing their shops as well,” Hill said.

BOULDER — As the ongoing John Deere (NYSE: DE) and Kellogg Co. (NYSE: K) strikes shine a spotlight on collective worker action across the country, Boulder is stepping onto the scene with a unionization push at Spruce Confections LLC.

In a fight for improved pay, benefits and working conditions, a majority of the roughly 70 non-management employees at the local Boulder bakery chain have signed union cards in hopes of joining the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco, and Grain Millers Union Local 26.

Should they succeed, the Spruce Confections workers will be the first food-service employees in Boulder County to unionize, according to the BCTGM.

“There’s a lot of excitement in the air and a feeling that we’re on the brink of real change,” Spruce warehouse worker Roscoe Cichon told BizWest.

Spruce, which did not immediately comment Friday, doesn’t provide workers with retirement benefits, most employees don’t accrue paid time off beyond federal holidays and, until recently, non-managers were not provided with primary health care benefits, according to the union.

“All of us want to work for a company that values us, and I think collective action is the best way to make our voices heard,” said Noah Hill, a barista at Spruce’s Pearl Street location. “We want our voices heard.”

Spruce workers are taking inspiration from union actions in places such as Ottumwa, Iowa, where Deere and Co. factory employees are striking during contentious labor contract negotiations.

“People all over the country are standing up for themselves and their co-workers,” Hill said.

Since signing union cards, Spruce workers have…