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Maine’s Coffee By Design Voluntarily Recognizes Employee Union

Coffee By Design

The owners of Portland, Maine-based roasting and retail company Coffee By Design have voluntarily recognized an employee union among baristas.

A joint announcement yesterday from Coffee By Design and Local 327 of the Laborer’s International Union of North America (LIUNA) said that the shop’s management has filed paperwork recognizing the Local 327 as a bargaining agent, allowing contract negotiations to begin immediately.

The voluntary recognition is the first in the coffee industry’s modern era. The industry’s highest-profile cases of unionization have been associated with Starbucks, which has been accused in dozens of National Labor Relations Board complaints of illegal anti-union activities.

A recent report from the United States Department of Labor suggests voluntary recognition of unions is on the rise among employers wishing to respect the rights of their workers while avoiding drawn-out and sometimes litigious unionization campaigns.

A majority of workers at Coffee By Design’s retail shops announced intentions to seek unionization earlier this month. A previous announcement from Local 327 said the union push was due to low pay, inconsistent hours and benefits and an “ad-hoc disciplinary system,” among other allegations.

espresso stock photo

In yesterday’s announcement, Coffee By Design Co-Founder and Owner Mary Allen Lindemann said she looks forward to a “bright” future for the company, its employees and its customers.

“I’m proud of Coffee By Design’s long-standing commitment to Maine,” Lindemann said. “We have always said a great cup of coffee changes lives, and viewed our coffee, and our business, as a catalyst for positive change and solidarity. It is in keeping with this philosophy and our long-demonstrated commitment to our employees that we will work with the Laborers’ Union in support of our retail baristas.”

Coffee By Design has been serving the Portland area since 1994. The company announced it was temporarily closing one of its three retail locations earlier this month in order to hire and train more staff.

In December 2019, Roast magazine named Coffee By Design the 2020 Roaster of the Year in the “macro” category, citing the company’s long-running commitments to social causes and community building alongside coffee quality.

In a statement obtained by the Portland Press Herald, Jason Shedlock, a spokesman for Local 327, said contract negotiations will begin immediately.

“This is the way it’s supposed to work,” Shedlock said. “I’m pleased that the management team at Coffee By Design has agreed that our collective energy is best used to work together towards a fair and equitable first collective bargaining agreement.”

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