Plenty of bagels, not enough dough: Bruegger’s Bagels workers fight for a union
Photo via Bruegger's Workers United

IOWA CITY, Iowa—On June 3 the workers of Bruegger’s Bagels in Iowa City and Coralville filed papers with the National Labor Relations Board to be represented by Bruegger’s Workers United.

This week, People’s World interviewed Juniper Hollis, a representative of the workers in the Iowa City location, to talk about what led them to organize a union.

The impulse to organize started when Hollis asked co-workers about what their wages were and whether they were happy with what they were getting paid. What she found was that pay varied from worker to worker, with some struggling to survive on an unlivable wage and others going years without a pay bump.

“Many told me after years working with the company they had never received a raise,” she said. After discovering the conversations she was having with co-workers, management responded with typical union-busting tactics.

Some of the signs carried by Bruegger’s Bagels picketers. | Michael Powers / People’s World

“They started sending someone to the stores not to do any work or assist the store management but simply to watch the workers and report back about unionizing efforts,” Hollis recalled.

She and others started posting flyers about union activities and hearings next to the work schedule. In an attempt to scare the workers, management claimed it wasn’t allowed. “Another tactic used by management was to talk privately to some employees behind their co-workers’ backs in an attempt to scare or lie about the ones leading the union effort.”

The bagel workers were already feeling unfairly treated by management even before the talks about a union started. Hollis recalled a time when management told a worker to return to the store immediately after receiving health treatment at the hospital emergency room.

And as for Hollis herself, Bruegger’s Bagels has rewarded her with termination for her effort in trying to organize co-workers into a union.

The full list of demands the workers plan to put forward is still forming, but Hollis says better wages, better treatment from management, a fairer division of work responsibilities, and the ability to earn PTO after three months rather than six are all on the agenda.

The workers also have a pending lawsuit against the company for their unfair labor practices. Hollis said the workers have “not yet considered going on strike, but they will continue with building community support via protests outside shop location and fight against the union-busting tactics being used by management.”

Community support shown far in their early stages has been from workers at the only unionized Starbucks in Iowa, located in the downtown area of Iowa City, as well as from local activists. “More community support will help” in the fight for recognition and to force management to listen to the workers’ demands, Hollis said.


Michael Powers
Michael Powers

Michael Powers writes from Iowa City, Iowa.