Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The rear of the Starbucks in Somerville’s Wilson Square. (Photo: Andrew P. via Yelp)

Workers at a Somerville Starbucks filed a petition Friday with the National Labor Relations Board to unionize, according to the Starbucks Workers United organization.

It comes less than a week after around 60 baristas and managers at the Somerville coffee shop group of Bloc Café, Diesel Café and Forge Baking Co. approved their first contract. The agreement, ratified Sunday, was brokered through the Unite Here union.

At first “we had little knowledge of what a union was or what it might mean for our business. All we knew, as progressive liberals, was that unions were good,” owners Jennifer Park and Tucker Lewis said in a letter to customers. But they were now “proud” to sign a first union contract.

This month also saw the opening of Roust Coffee at 148 Mount Auburn St., Harvard Square, the former original location of four Darwin’s Ltd. coffee shops. All closed late last year after a unionization push, with co-owner Steve Darwin saying the replacement in Harvard Square would be a bakery with no need for baristas – though Valentin Terteliu Hefco, a recent immigrant from Romania, has in large part duplicated the Darwin’s Ltd. model with pared-down menus and staff that includes some former Darwin’s Ltd. workers.

Newly unionized workers in the kitchen at Diesel Café on Friday in Somerville’s Davis Square. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Other former Darwin’s Ltd. workers plan to open a worker-owned cafe called the Circus Co-op at another closed location in the chain, at 1629 Cambridge St., Mid-Cambridge, the Harvard Crimson’s Caroline K. Hsu reported Feb. 6.

The wave of Massachusetts coffee shop labor organizing began in 2021 at Pavement Coffeehouse, which has eight shops across the Boston area, including one in Harvard Square. Workers at 1369 Coffeehouse in Central and Inman squares followed in 2022, along with the Darwins and Somerville baristas.

Workers at the Darwins Ltd. coffee shop chain march to unionize Oct. 30 in Cambridge, shortly before word that the stores would close. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The few employees at the small Starbucks at 711-723 Somerville Ave., Wilson Square, have become part of a nationwide movement of 285 stores and more than 7,000 baristas who are organizing, according to a Friday press release from Starbucks Workers United.

“We give our all to make our store a place that people want to be. Despite this, however, we do not feel appreciated for this work. What we do feel is unheard, unrecognized and disrespected,” the workers said in a letter to Starbuck chief executive Howard Schultz telling him of the decision to file, according to the press release. “With the work we provide Starbucks, we deserve a living wage, comprehensive physical and mental health benefits, performance-based raises, protections from being overworked or unsanitary working conditions, and for our availability and requested time off to be considered with respect.”

The union did not immediately respond to questions about how many workers were involved or what unionizing looked like at Starbuck’s other 11 locations in Cambridge and Somerville.