Dandelion Chocolate’s Employees are Unionizing
This morning employees from Dandelion Chocolate presented management with an official letter notifying them that the workers intend to form a union.
Following in the footsteps of the folks at Anchor Brewing and Tartine, the workers at Dandelion linked up with the International Longshoreman Warehouse Union (ILWU) to help them form their own union. ILWU had been instrumental in the organizing and negotiations at both Anchor and Tartine. Anchor is now part of the ILWU Local 6 Warehouse Division. Tartine’s unionization process was slowed down by the COVID Pandemic, so they are still waiting on the ruling from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to make it official. The workers at Dandelion and the Longshoremen have been working on this since 2019.
If they successfully form a union, it will encompass all the workers at Dandelion’s four locations. This includes customer facing employees in the retail locations (like sales people and those in education), people who make the actual products, and those who work in the warehouse.
When I talked to Christine Keating, one of the workers doing the organizing, she said, “We want to unionize because we’re looking to have more representation and seat at the table. We want Dandelion to be a more democratic work place. Right now management doesn’t seem to care about what workers want.”
According to Chyler Barraca, another worker-organizer, this was allegedly made even more apparent during the the pandemic. “During the pandemic we lost lots of people at Valencia Street production. We are down to 6 people from what is would normally be at 9-11 people. This is a physically demanding job and we’re burned out running on this skeleton crew,” they told me over the phone.
Tim Ryan, the other worker-organizer I talked to said, “These weren’t issues that just popped up. We brought up the issues many times, lots of people did, and they kept just dragging things out instead of taking action.”
The workers said their entreaties to management, asking for them to hire more people in order to make Dandelion safer and less stressful, went unheard. So they sent a formal letter to HR asking to have a voice in the decisions that impact their work life.
According to the the workers I talked to, when they eventually met with CEO Todd Masonis, his wife Elaine Wherry (who is CXO, in charge of design and HR), and Caitlin Lacey (director of production), management responded to the workers’ concerns by proposing they just shut down the Valencia location all together. Reportedly, that would mean the workers could either try to get a job at the 16th Street location or take a voluntary layoff with $1000 severance. The workers were concerned that, if they moved to the 16th Street location, they might be offered a different than they were hired to do, at a lower pay rate, and at totally different hours.
Keating explained, “What happened with Valencia is that we asked for help and instead they respond with shutting the place down. There’s a pattern of retaliation against people who bring up issues to management and HR. The problems don’t get solved. The work place just gets more toxic and less safe. The CEO made it seem like it was a mutually agreed upon thing, instead of a reaction to our request for better treatment.”
And so the workers are moving forward with the process of unionizing, not just their location, but all of Dandelion Chocolate’s properties.
When asked why they chose to go with the ILWU instead of one of the many other local unions Brown said, “We were inspired by Anchor and Tartine unionizing so it felt natural for Dandelion to join ILWU. The folks at ILWU are open and welcoming and it’s the community we want to be part of.”
Barraca echoed this by saying “The support that I wish to get from my company, we’re actually getting from ILWU and DSA and Anchor and Tartine. We feel listened to and supported.”