BRUNSWICK, Maine — A small café in downtown Brunswick is the latest Maine business to see its workers vote in favor of unionizing.
Employees of The Little Dog Coffee Shop say staff voted 4-0 Wednesday in favor of joining Workers United, a national union that represents workers in several industries.
"We're all just so very happy and excited and we can't wait to move forward with the negotiation process," Sophie Creamer, a barista at Little Dog, said.
Creamer, who began working at the coffee shop earlier this year, said some of the employee concerns that prompted union organizing were wages, food safety, and a lack of transparency from employers.
"The straw that broke the camel's back, essentially, was losing hot water and being forced to stay open and having to put in extra labor just to be able to make sure that we are compliant with health regulations," Creamer said.
NEWS CENTER Maine reached out the owners of The Little Dog Coffee Shop but have not received a response.
The café was sold over the summer and is now owned by Metropolitan Coffee Houses, which also owns two coffee shops in New Hampshire and another in Freeport.
Creamer said workers planned to organize regardless of the new ownership.
"Although we respect him has a business owner, at the end of the day it's his business but our livelihood, and we need to make sure that it's being taken care of like we want it to be," Creamer said.
Creamer said in addition to increased food safety, workers hope to bring about more transparency between staff and ownership, as well as better wages.
"A more livable wage, so that instead of scraping by on tips and the gratuity of our customers, which we love, it would be nice to be able to actually afford an apartment in Brunswick," Creamer said.
Workers have received support from local organizations like Maine DSA, which has helped launch a solidarity fund for any potential legal costs and organized a "sip in" to stand in solidarity with workers.
Ahead of Wednesday's vote, four democratic state lawmakers from Brunswick came out in support of the workers efforts to unionize. Dan Ankeles, a representative elect, said Thursday he was happy to hear the news that workers had a successful union vote.
"It shows that the workers are committed to Little Dog. They are committed to this community. And I think it sends a great message," Ankeles said. "Little Dog for years has been a central gathering place at the heart of our community, and people really want to support them in this community."
Employees aren't sure bargaining negotiations may begin between the newly formed union and coffee shop owners, but they told NEWS CENTER Maine they are optimistic the owners will come to the negotiating table.
"We have very hardworking baristas, and we feel like they deserve what they need, and not just what we're getting," Creamer said.