As a late-morning stream of customers lined up at the Darwin’s Ltd. coffee shop in Cambridge, barista Sam White stepped back from the espresso machine and made an announcement.

“Attention customers,” White began, as a hush fell over the shop. “We’re going to take a little break. We apologize to all of you in line for making you wait a little bit extra for your order today, but everything would run much more smoothly here if we had a real say on the job, if we were paid enough. … We hope you understand.”

In a coordinated effort across all four Darwin’s locations, employees emerged from behind the bar and walked out to protest delays in their unionization process. A small group of pro-union workers from other local coffee shops joined them on the sidewalk on Cambridge Street.

Last September, about 36 workers at Darwin’s cafes filed a petition to unionize, hoping to become the second independent coffee chain in Massachusetts to form a union, following a petition by



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