Proponents of the Tartine Union won a razor-thin victory today after the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C., upheld a lower court’s decision that 14 of 24 challenged ballots should be thrown out.
That triggered tallying of 10 previously uncounted ballots. The final tally was 93 workers in favor of the union, and 90 against. That means the Tartine Union is now official.
“This is just an indication that the workers here in the city have a desire to be unionized, and they’re doing everything they can” to make it happen, said Augustin Ramirez, an organizer with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, noting that the Tartine workers waited more than a year to see the results of their effort. “That shows there’s interest among these workers to continue with this fight.”
Workers at the world-class bakery began organizing last February, and officially voted on whether to form their union on March 12 of last year: 89 voted in favor of the union, while 84 voted against, with 24 “challenged” votes, meaning some of the votes may have been illegitimate. The issue needed to be litigated, and a decision would take months.
But another obstacle was on the horizon. The day the workers voted on the union was also the day the San Francisco Unified School District announced its decision to close schools because of the escalating pandemic. It was also only days before the region-wide shelter-in-place order went into effect.
Yet even as Tartine scaled down its workforce and concerns shifted to Covid-19, a quiet battle over the bakery workers’ right to unionize nonetheless played out. At issue were 24 challenged ballots. Ramirez and Tartine workers alleged that a portion of them, about 14 ballots, were cast by workers that Tartine’s management had hired solely to sway the vote against the union.
The state Labor Relations Board in October agreed that the 14 ballots were illegitimate and should not be counted, leaving 10 uncounted ballots, Ramirez said. But Tartine’s management appealed the decision to the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C., and on Tuesday the board rejected the appeal and upheld the lower court’s decision to toss the 14 ballots.
The 10 remaining ballots were therefore counted on Tuesday. Four were in favor of the union, giving union supporters 93 votes, and six were against, giving the opposition 90.
But Ramirez said that, as this chapter is ending, another is quickly beginning. He said that many of the workers who spearheaded the unionization effort had to leave the workforce because of covid restrictions. And the primary objective right now is to get Tartine to rehire them.
“We are sending a letter to Tartine, letting them know we would like to work with them and it’s also our understanding that an ordinance that became law in San Francisco – the right to reemployment – applies to Tartine,” Ramirez said.
Passed by the Board of Supervisors last June, the Right to Reemployment Ordinance mandates that certain businesses who laid off employees must give them first right of refusal to a comparable job when the business begins rehiring.
With covid restrictions relaxing, Ramirez said, the unionization “couldn’t have come at a better time.”
The union’s victory at Tartine comes only weeks after workers at Dandelion Chocolate declared their intention to unionize, also under the aegis of the ILWU.
Todd Masonis, Dandelion’s owner and founder, did not outright reject the effort, as Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt, Tartine’s owners, did following the bakery workers’ announcement to unionize.
Tartine’s management, meanwhile, has not responded to a request for comment.