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Coffee By Design signs labor agreement with baristas

Barista James Frydrych slings java behind the counter at Coffee By Design on Diamond Street in Portland in 2014.
Troy R. Bennett/BDN
Barista James Frydrych slings java behind the counter at Coffee By Design on Diamond Street in Portland in 2014.

Portland’s Coffee by Design signed a collective bargaining agreement with its baristas, becoming the first independently owned coffee shop in Maine to sign such a contract.

The business's 20 front-of-house staff workers decided to join Local 327 of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA). The union represented the workers in the six-months long contract negotiations.

"I think there should be a pretty good expectation that other establishments will be exploring the same pathway that the workers at Coffee By Design took," said Jason Sheldman, the regional organizer for Local 327. "Those conversations are happening on a daily basis, and we’re happy to be there to help."

The contract signed this week secures a wage increase and establishes a labor-management committee between Coffee By Design and its workers. The mutual agreement is for one year, which Sheldman said will allow both parties to continue crafting a long-term agreement.

"I’m happy to report that the workers certainly will receive a pay increase upon signing," said Sheldman. "Our negotiating team did a tremendous job, but a lot of credit to the [Coffee By Design] workers who, after long shifts, would sit together and go over language and share how things would manifest on the ground. [That work] was probably thousands of hours altogether."

The twenty coffee shop workers unanimously approved the contract agreement on Friday. Sheldman said the workers first approached the union in September. Local 327 represents nearly 400 workers across multiple industries.

Nick Song is Maine Public's inaugural Emerging Voices Fellowship Reporter.

Originally from Southern California, Nick got his start in radio when he served as the programming director for his high school's radio station. He graduated with a degree in Journalism and History from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University -- where he was Co-News Director for WNUR 89.3 FM, the campus station.