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What Occurred to the Dandelion Chocolate Union?


Aug 14, 2022
What Occurred to the Dandelion Chocolate Union?

Christine Keating liked working at Dandelion Chocolate: She began her time with the San Francisco firm in 2014 as a chocolate maker and spent the following seven years climbing the ladder, ultimately changing into Dandelion’s lead chocolate educator, internet hosting lessons and excursions at Dandelion’s large manufacturing facility in San Francisco’s Mission District.

However her previous couple of years working at Dandelion had been painful, she says.

Beginning in spring 2021, Keating was instrumental within the effort to kind the Dandelion Union, serving to to mobilize her coworkers and arrange conferences after hours. They gathered within the late night time at one another’s properties and at native bars, and held rallies at Mission Dolores Park with native unions and pro-labor politicians. In April 2021, a union vote was held, and in September 2021 after sifting by contested votes, it was clear the union received. By then, although, Keating was searching for a brand new profession in New York Metropolis, having been let go from Dandelion in early June.

Keating and three others concerned within the unionization effort, together with former Dandelion workers and organizers, allege that Dandelion Chocolate didn’t play by the foundations following the vote, participating in unfair labor practices that successfully crushed the fledgling union. “We had all grown and fought actually arduous within the marketing campaign,” Keating says, including that by the point the ultimate union vote rely occurred it was clear there have been too few union-supporting employees to maintain the Dandelion Union in any respect.

Dandelion Chocolate has been a San Francisco and Bay Space favourite because it opened greater than a decade in the past in 2010. Since 2020, nonetheless, the corporate has contended with myriad controversies, together with allegations of racism amongst administration, the continued influence of the COVID-19 well being disaster, and a contentious union drive. Now, former workers and labor organizers say the corporate did every little thing in its energy to dismantle the corporate’s younger union — and that it labored. In a time when Santa Cruz youngsters are organizing their native Starbucks, these concerned with Dandelion’s union push say that the corporate missed an opportunity to set an instance as an unbiased enterprise that helps its employees.

Dandelion’s office issues started to air in public in June 2020, when workers described a tradition of “anti-Blackness” throughout the firm, telling native information web site Mission Native about an occasion when a supervisor despatched a racist textual content message to an worker. Then, in March 2021, workers introduced plans to unionize. The union effort was a part of a wave of worker-led accountability initiatives that got here out of the 2020 Black Lives Matter motion amid allegations of poisonous and unsafe working circumstances at companies massive and small. Dandelion’s workers grew to become a part of a golden second for labor organizing; different high-profile Bay Space companies, together with Anchor Brewing and Tartine Bakery unionized in 2019 and 2020, respectively, and extra lately Starbucks and Amazon employees have led profitable union efforts nationally and in Northern California.

However the Dandelion Chocolate union effort was fraught from the beginning. In March 2021, ​​former workers took to the remark part of Mission Native articles in regards to the drive, voicing important opinions in regards to the firm whereas native politicians, together with District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston, confirmed help for the trouble. On the time, Dandelion Chocolate founder and proprietor Todd Masonis advised Mission Native he was open to employees organizing and didn’t need Dandelion to be seen as an anti-union firm.

The Worldwide Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) supported and bargained on behalf of Dandelion’s workers, as that they had executed efficiently for workers at Anchor Brewing and Tartine. On April 20, Dandelion Chocolate workers turned of their playing cards in favor of the union. However voting to unionize is just the beginning of the unionization course of; it may possibly take months and even years of negotiations earlier than employees and management attain a contract, which determines and specifies the rights workers acquire. Paperwork shared with Eater SF present that within the days instantly after Dandelion employees voted to unionize, the corporate let go of not less than 9 workers who supported the trouble, making it exceedingly tough for employees to efficiently negotiate a contract.

In response to the allegations that Dandelion terminated employees in an effort to undermine the union, Masonis supplied Eater SF with a written assertion saying that the layoffs had been motivated purely by monetary struggles associated to the pandemic. “The unionization effort was difficult because the on-going uncertainty grew to become a big deterrent for potential buyers — and as an unprofitable enterprise scuffling with COVID — our checking account was quickly approaching zero,” the assertion reads partly. “So as to maintain our doorways open, we sadly needed to make widespread layoffs.”

Eater SF couldn’t verify, nonetheless, if any workers exterior of the union had been impacted by the firings.

A view of equipment at the Dandelion Chocolate factory in the Mission District.

Greater than a 12 months after voting to unionize, former Dandelion Chocolate workers say the corporate did every little thing in its energy to dismantle the labor effort.
Patricia Chang

ILWU Organizing Director Ryan Dowling spent quite a lot of time speaking with Masonis, appearing as a liaison between employees and firm management within the remaining months of the union’s authorized battle with the corporate. Dowling, who has been working in labor organizing within the Bay Space for the higher a part of a decade, says the layoffs that occurred simply after the union vote represent wrongful termination. After the layoffs, dozens of protestors, together with Supervisors Dean Preston and Connie Chan, rallied to attempt to get the corporate to rehire the workers, in response to Mission Native. On the time, Masonis stated the Nationwide Labor Relations Board (NLRB) would “guarantee [the firings] had been correct.”

However in response to Dowling, employees filed claims with the NLRB proper after the firings, and the group later discovered the terminations to be “unfair.” Had the workers opted to pursue instances towards Dandelion Chocolate, a proper grievance from the NLRB might have resulted in a mandate to reinstate the workers and publicly acknowledge wrongdoing, Dowling says. However by the point the NLRB formally decided the allegations of unfair labor practices to be true — which didn’t occur till 4 months later in September 2021 — the previous Dandelion employees had been now not curious about taking authorized motion. “The overwhelming majority who had misplaced their jobs stated, ‘I don’t even need to return,’” Dowling says.

Instead, Dowling and Masonis agreed that Masonis and the corporate would provide a money sum to workers who most well-liked to go away so long as they signed paperwork prohibiting the previous workers from speaking about their agreements with the corporate on the best way out — a deal that prolonged not solely to these laid off in June 2021, but additionally further workers who opted to go away the corporate in September 2021. Whereas it stays unclear what number of extra employees left the corporate by selection within the fall, Dowling estimates it was one other 4 to 6 workers. Those that took the settlement are unable to reveal the monetary quantity they got by Dandelion. However as part of the settlement, the corporate promised to extend worker inventory choices and embrace ground employees on the board of administrators; throughout the pandemic, Dandelion additionally ensured all workers had premium medical health insurance by Kaiser Permanente.

As a result of there was no formal litigation, the one information of the settlement between Masonis and employees come from the NLRB and embrace letters Masonis wrote to 2 public officers as a part of the arbitration, Dowling says. In letters to District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman and ILWU President William E. Adams dated October 4, 2021, Masonis apologized on behalf of his firm for any “discomfort or hurt” he induced to workers and wrote he was “unaware that a few of these statements [made to staff] might cross the road or be thought-about violations of NLRA.” (The Nationwide Labor Relations Act covers workers’ proper to freely affiliate and prohibits employers from discouraging their workers to take action.)

Dowling likens the scenario to a felony plea deal: As soon as Dandelion grew to become conscious the NLRB might pursue authorized motion towards the corporate, Masonis opted as a substitute to dealer an settlement with employees. “They kind of copped a deal to keep away from a government-issued grievance,” Dowling says.

For his half, Masonis says that of the quite a few claims employees filed all through the summer season and fall of 2021, the bulk had been deemed “frivolous,” in Masonis’s phrases, by the NLRB. Solely a comparatively small quantity would have been investigated, he says, although, in fact, the corporate had already reached settlements with employees by October.

A view of the counter and shelving at Dandelion Chocolate’s Mission District factory.

Dandelion Chocolate laid off quite a few employees instantly after a union vote, which former employees and organizers say constitutes unfair labor practices.
Patricia Chang

It’s not unusual for corporations that interact in unlawful union-busting ways to keep away from having to reply for these actions in court docket. Tony Dundon, an knowledgeable on work and employment research on the Nationwide College of Eire, Limerick, describes anti-union ideology as “the blatant intimidation of employees that strives to instill a concern (actual or in any other case) of managerial reprisals for doable unionization.” His work additionally notes that union-busting can appear to be an organization tying up the marketing campaign efforts in time-consuming litigation. These kinds of behaviors — intimidating employees and dragging out the unionization course of — are comparatively frequent: Walmart and Amazon have each been known as out for related practices.

Edgar Franks, the political director of employees’ rights group Familias Unidas por la Justicia in Bellingham, Washington, says conditions just like the settlement reached between workers and Dandelion Chocolate are additionally fairly frequent. Pursuing authorized recompense by the NLRB is excruciatingly tough for workers, wrongfully terminated or not, and may drag on for years as instances rack up hefty authorized charges. “In our expertise, corporations select to settle and assign NDAs after they know they’ve executed one thing incorrect,” Franks says. “They need to save face. They’d slightly try this than enable employees to have a say of their office and repair points.” Firing vocal union supporters, he provides, is a traditional tactic within the union-busting playbook. “It’s meant to ship a chill issue.”

In interviews with Eater SF, ILWU representatives and former Dandelion Chocolate workers shared quite a few methods they are saying the corporate labored to undercut the efficacy of the union. Dowling says Masonis and administration blamed workers when buyers within the firm pulled out resulting from discuss of unionization, intimidated employees by abruptly shedding those that spoke out towards the corporate, and made false guarantees to employees in an effort to undermine the union effort. (Eater SF spoke to 2 former workers members who requested to stay nameless resulting from agreements they signed as part of the settlement reached with the corporate.)

Evan McLaughlin, an area labor activist who labored with Tartine Bakery and Anchor Brewing on their union drives, is now the ILWU consultant for Northern California. He confirms there was vital pushback from administration at Dandelion Chocolate throughout the union marketing campaign.

“When the vote truly occurred, we solely received that vote by a small margin because of the [company’s] marketing campaign,” McLaughlin says. “After that time, there have been quite a few layoffs and one firing that solely affected vocal union supporters. We keep that unfair labor practices had been dedicated.”

Dowling says he thinks Dandelion missed a possibility to be a pro-worker chocolate enterprise throughout a time when many conversations throughout the trade middle on employees’ rights. “I believe it’s disheartening that Dandelion Chocolate might flip letters in to the San Francisco County Board in addition to the ILWU, apologize for infractions towards labor legislation, then flip round and say there was no advantage to what the labor board discovered,” he says. “If something, I might suppose Todd would need to present that he realized from his errors.”

The Dandelion Chocolate sign at the company’s Valencia Street retail cafe.

Dandelion Chocolate reopened its Valencia Road cafe for indoor eating in March after an prolonged closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the meantime, Dandelion Chocolate is shuffling again into order within the wake of what was hopefully the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dandelion’s Valencia Road cafe reopened in March for indoor eating and procuring with prolonged retailer hours. The manufacturing facility within the Mission stays closed to the general public, although a gap date for Bloom Salon, Dandelion’s eating choice contained in the manufacturing facility, is about for later this summer season. The Ferry Constructing outpost, which had beforehand been open for retail gross sales solely, is again to serving foods and drinks, too.

Lisa Vega, government pastry chef at Dandelion Chocolate, has been with the corporate since 2013. She says the workers has felt the influence of the previous few years, however pandemic-related provide chain and issues of safety have been extra the corporate’s focus than addressing its half within the stalled union effort. “The union isn’t part of day-to-day conversations,” Vega says. “We’ve been centered on constructing again our workforce as we do have rather a lot to do.”

Wanting again, Keating acknowledges there have been coworkers who weren’t excited in regards to the union. One employee of about three years, who selected to stay nameless and isn’t an energetic member of the union, says the union effort was the “crescendo of quite a lot of issues {that a} union couldn’t assist with.” They agreed with Vega that conversations in regards to the union and the particular points it was fashioned to handle usually are not a day-to-day a part of working on the manufacturing facility. Masonis, for his half, enacted COVID hazard pay, supplied distant work to academics, baristas, and the majority of the workers, and does hope to implement additional employee advantages packages, too.

Keating says she’s glad to suppose Dandelion is supporting workers’ rights with some concessions Masonis made as part of the settlement with employees final 12 months, however fears the gutted union ranks received’t have the ability to discount successfully — particularly with out the ILWU, which now not represents the union because of the lack of sources. (Of the union’s choice to deny its curiosity in Dandelion, Masonis says, “My understanding is the choice was circuitously linked to the settlement.”) Dowling says, nonetheless, that the Dandelion Union continues to be, not less than on paper, part of the native ILWU. If employees needed to renew working with the ILWU tomorrow, they may. The issue is that the corporate might proceed to pull out the method. Of the 20 “sure” votes solid to the 19 “nos” within the March 2021 election, not less than 10 of the approving workers have since left the corporate or been laid off.

“Securing a primary settlement is difficult sufficient when you’ve energetic individuals,” Keating says.

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