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Boston-Area Blue Bottle Coffee Workers Seek Unionization

blue bottle coffee

Workers from five Boston-area locations of Blue Bottle Coffee today launched a union campaign described as more than a year in the making.

A group by the name of Blue Bottle Independent Union said that workers delivered letters to managers of five Boston-area stores — representing all but one of Blue Bottle’s Massachusetts locations — requesting voluntary union recognition by Monday, April 8.

If the company does not voluntarily recognize the organization, the workers plan to petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), following a formal process for union recognition.

According a Boston Globe report, the effort is supported by approximately 50 workers at the Harvard Square, Kendall Square, Newbury Street, Chestnut Hill, and Prudential Center outposts.

“We are unionizing because Blue Bottle does not pay us enough to meet our basic needs, does not allow us any input into cafe operations, and continues to show disdain for us as workers,” the organizing group said in a statement. “As baristas we are the face of the company and produce all of the value for Blue Bottle, yet could not afford a drink if we didn’t work here. Many of us struggle to make ends meet despite working full time.”

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Oakland, California-based Blue Bottle was acquired by global food giant Nestlé in 2017 and currently operates more than 100 cafes in the U.S., according to Nestlé, in the markets of California, New York, Boston, Washington D.C. and Chicago.

Blue Bottle Coffee did not immediately reply to DCN’s request for comment on the unionization effort in Boston.

Unionization has been bubbling up throughout the specialty coffee industry in recent years, following the landmark wave of Starbucks unionizations beginning in 2021. With a small handful of exceptions — such as Intelligentsia Coffee in January 2023 and Heine Bros in March 2023 — few unionization efforts to this point have resulted in ratified contracts among specialty chains.

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