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Monday, October 25, 2021

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News + PoliticsLaborA 'double celebration:' Unionization moves forward at two local companies

A ‘double celebration:’ Unionization moves forward at two local companies

Dandelion Chocolate workers hope to join Tartine Bakery workers, who just won a contested election for union representation.


More than 100 workers and ILWU Local 6 members attended a rally in Dolores Park Wednesday celebrating the unionization vote of Tartine Bakery’s workers and supporting the ongoing unionization effort of Dandelion Chocolate’s workers, who announced their intent to unionize on March 17.

“It’s like a double celebration,” said Agustin Ramirez, Northern California lead organizer for the ILUW who has been involved the unionization efforts for both Tartine Bakery and Dandelion Chocolate.

Dandelion Chocolate workers and Local 6 are waiting for a National Labor Relations Board election to occur in the next four to six weeks, when the workers will vote whether to formally unionize or not.

Several workers said that they have had largely positive experiences working at Dandelion Chocolate. Christine Keating, who has worked at the company for seven years, said that she believes unionizing will only serve to make working conditions better for her and her fellow employees.

“I love what I do and I love where I work, and I believe that this union is the best way to keep and that and to make that even better…we want accountability from management and we want job security. I would like to do what I’m doing for the next seven years,” said Keating.

Dandelion employee Kenneth Cabrera said that he and many others enjoy their jobs, but mainly wanted to have better pay and for workers to have more influence in business decisions.

“We’re not asking for a chest full of gold, we’re asking for better pay and better treatment…We want you to eat our chocolate, it’s our pleasure. We just want to make a living at the same time,” said Cabrera.

Management, however, has been less enthusiastic about their workforce unionizing. Workers said that during a presentation by pro-union Dandelion Chocolate workers shown during a company-wide meeting Wednesday morning on why they want to unionize, management expressed concern about the negative PR that a unionization effort would generate.

“They said that we are selfish…that we haven’t thought about the repercussions for the rest of the company,” said Cabrera. “They said that that union efforts are generally bad PR for a business and that investors are not looking to invest in a company with an organized workforce.”

Workers and union leaders, however, said that unionization could help the company by boosting sales, as San Franciscans widely support unions and may be eager to support a union-made product.

Todd Masonis, founder and CEO of Dandelion, would not elaborate on managements’ stance on the workers’ efforts to unionize.

“As management, we don’t get a vote so we see our role as providing a safe space for open dialog and answering questions that team members have about what these changes would mean for Dandelion and for each person individually,” said Masonis.

Masonis did not say whether or not unionization could or could not increase sales of Dandelion Chocolate, saying only that the unionization effort has been mentioned by customers.

“We’ve seen a few orders come in with notes of support and customers mentioning it at our retail spots. It’s been a small number, but it’s always nice to see customers respond in support of the company and our team members,” said Masonis.

District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston addressed the rally, and affirmed his support for the Dandelion workers’ effort to unionize.

“It feels like things are changing, it feels like we have momentum…you have people in City Hall who stand with you,” said Preston. “San Francisco is a union town, it always has been. And we have a message for Dandelion management, just do the right thing.”

As of now, Masonis has not said that he will hire anti-union consultants, according to Ramirez.

But the rally was not just about the unionization attempt among Dandelion Chocolates’ workers, but also to celebrate the successful unionization effort by Tartine Bakery’s workers, which has taken more than a year to come to fruition after management contested 24 of the original unionization votes in March 2020, declaring them illegitimate, and requiring the matter to be litigated.

Yesterday, however, the Labor Relations Board came to an agreement to toss out 14 of the votes, counting the remaining 10, and the final tally came to 93 to 90 in favor of unionizing. As of April 1, the NLRB has officially designated ILWU Local 6 as the Tartine workers’ collective-bargaining representatives.

Ramirez said that with COVID restrictions winding down—San Francisco entered the orange reopening tier on March 23—and with passage of the Right of Reemployment Ordinance in June, which requires employers with 100 or more to re-hire former employees before hiring new workers, now is an opportune time to unionize.

The highest priorities for ILWU Local 6, now representing the newly-unionized Tartine workers, is to ensure that Tartine will comply with the Right of Reemployment Ordinance and to form a bargaining committee once they receive a list of current employees from Tartine management, according to Ramirez.

“We anticipate that in the next six to nine months, the restaurant industry will recover, and that more workers will need to be hired,” said Ramirez. “We hope Tartine abides by the law and comes to the table…now it’s time to sit down and negotiate.”

One former Tartine Worker, Brigitte Johnson, who worked at the Tartine manufactory on Alabama Street before she was laid off in late March 2020, said that she plans to reapply for her position at the factory now that the workers have unionized.

“I’m planning on reapplying, I’m hoping that they honor my right to be re-employed, and I look forward to the workers at Tartine having a real seat at the table to negotiate a contract that represents their interests and more fairness at Tartine, because it’s a really wonderful product and we’re all really happy to work there,” said Johnson.

Tartine leadership did not respond to requests for comment. 

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  1. Maybe defer the celebrations until we know for sure that unionization will not lead to fewer jobs at these places? Or even the closure of these businesses or a crimp to their future growth?

    The votes were very close indicating an absence of a real mandate for this change amongst those most affected by it.

  2. Not a bad idea to unionize while working conditions are good. One never knows when a friendly management team may be overtaken by a new less friendly organization.

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