Collective bargaining is in the mix for workers at Tattersall Distilling in Minneapolis after they voted in favor of joining together in a union.

The Twin Cities hospitality union, UNITE HERE Local 17, announced the news on social media today. Tattersall employees are the first at any craft distillery in the U.S. to form a union, UNITE HERE said, and the first distillery workers to do so in Minnesota.

When Local 17 filed for an organizing election in June 26, the would-be union included 27 Tattersall employees. The bargaining unit will bring together bottlers, distillers, bartenders, servers, dishwashers and hosts at the distillery and cocktail room in Northeast.

It’s the first successful union drive to emerge from of an upwelling of collective action among Twin Cities food-service workers since restaurants and bars reopened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Krystle D’Alencar, a bartender and server, said she and fellow workers felt “treated as nothing better than a number” as Tattersall planned its reopening without giving them a meaningful voice in the process.

When workers confronted management with their concerns, D’Alencar added, they got a sneering response urging them to “remember that it’s a privilege to enjoy your job.”

D’Alencar’s comments came during a rally last month organized by food-service workers who want to see reform in the industry. The event in Minneapolis’ Chute Square park drew 150 people, who carried signs and chanted as they marched along a symbolic picket line.

The pandemic has layered concerns about health and safety atop existing anxieties, food-service workers said, like greater vulnerability to wage theft and sexual harassment in the industry, where less than 2% of workers nationwide are represented by unions.

Lux Wildenauer, who works at a Caribou Coffee in Minneapolis, described shortages of hand sanitizer and cloth rags, and a long wait for masks, which needed to display the company’s logo before workers could wear them.

“I’m tired of (bosses) saying they’re doing everything they can for us when our safety during a pandemic has been basically a do-it-yourself project,” Wildenauer said. “I can’t stomach that anymore.”

Workers at the rally released a public list of demands for restaurant owners, including health care and other benefits, personal protective equipment and a worker voice in safety policy, fair hiring practices, and equity in promotions, pay and treatment.

The workers framed the rally as a call to action to fellow food service workers to organize and fight for justice and dignity at work.

One in 10 Minneapolis workers works in food service, and the industry accounts for more than 5%of jobs statewide.

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