Coffee Shop Workers in Maine Form a Union, Reflecting Nationwide Movement – Food Tank

The Met’s coffee shop Little Dog in Brunswick, Maine is the newest food service establishment to unionize in Maine.

Little Dog is part of a chain of small coffee shops in New Hampshire and Maine owned by Larry and Diane Flaherty. Little Dog has been a staple of the Brunswick community since his 2005. Since then the cafe has changed his ownership twice. Once he was in January 2019 and the second time he was in July 2022 Mr and Mrs Flaherty purchased the cafe and renamed it Little Dog by the Met.

Union member Jessica Czarnecki, 26, told Food Tank that the bargaining department had been grappling with a long list of negotiations over the months, including a living wage, contracted workplace safety standards and better training programs. rice field.

“I feel a strong connection with people who are building community and trying to improve the working environment,” Laurentz Locke, 25, a member of Little Dog’s negotiating unit, told Food Tank. “Marginalized people feel the need to organize their workplaces so that workers can be protected and know they have support outside of themselves. It’s important to feel supported and have someone behind you.”

At Little Dog, all 12 members are under the age of 26, with the youngest member being 16. This reflects a large trend of young workers at the forefront of union organizing across the country, including Starbucks, Chipotle, and other chains.

Little Dog workers began talking seriously about forming a union in August. We partnered with Workers United, a national organization that advocates for respect and dignity.

Union member Sophie Creamer, 22, told Food Tank that union representatives helped her by answering questions and giving advice. “I learned a lot about basic labor law, my rights as a worker, and how to get ideas for negotiations,” she says.

In the fall, Little Dog’s bargaining department reached out to employers and announced their decision to unionize. Flaherty told Food Tank that he had had Little Dog for only two months at the time. “Honestly, I’ve never dealt with it, so I didn’t know what that meant,” he says. Did. [was] Just to get everyone to vote on their consciences and stay away from it. ”

According to Flaherty, “Since the whole process began, the union has had absolutely no contact with me about what they’re looking for.”

However, Czarnecki told Food Tank that lawyers from the bargaining unit and union representatives spoke with Larry on behalf of the workers throughout the organizing process. “We didn’t want to meet him in person because it lacked intelligence,” they say. The Negotiations Department was aware that information shared with Flaherty could be used against workers.

Weeks after the negotiation department approached Flaherty, two of Little Dog’s managers were fired.

These layoffs are consistent with a statewide and national trend of retaliation against workers and their efforts to organize. Maine AFL-CIO says more than 100 union organizers across the country have been fired by Starbucks in his union wave that began in late 2021, and 350 unfair labor practices complaints have been filed with his NLRB. Submitted.

Starbucks employees in downtown Portland, Maine, faced similar retaliation after unionizing in mid-October. As reported by the Portland Press Herald, Starbucks has decided to close its stores for renovations on Dec. 23, just one month after Workers won the election.

“We are closing one of Portland’s busiest stores less than a month after workers formed a union,” state representative Sherry Pingree said in a statement to social media. Starbucks’ decision appears to be a brazen violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

Despite corporate and employer reprisals, many community members have supported efforts to organize workers. Residents of Brunswick and students from nearby Bowdoin his college visited Little Dog to share words of encouragement throughout the organizing process. Also, the main branch of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) organized several “drinking parties”, provided financial support to two of her laid-off employees, and paid for the union movement’s supplies. A Solidarity Fund was established to finance the

“If you love your job and take pride in what you do, it is natural that you want your workplace to be a safe place for yourself and your colleagues. It’s okay to ask,’ union member Pam Mont, 23, told Food Tank. The working class is unaware of the actual power they possess. It’s time to do so. ”

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Photo credit: Jessica Czarnecki

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