Following months of uncertainty, Dandelion Chocolate’s union is official — by the margin of a single vote.
Last week, the National Labor Relations Board recounted ballots from a contested union election held in April, which broke for Dandelion Chocolate’s union by the bare-bones vote of 18 to 16.
That outcome was challenged by management and staff and, after the National Labor Relations Board intervention, the final tally was 20 ayes to 19 noes.
“It was really exciting, and a real validation of the work we did,” said Christine Keating, a former Dandelion Chocolate employee who spearheaded the unionization efforts.
The disagreement between management and staff centered on which employees were eligible to participate — and led to nine votes being contested.
Ultimately, five of the contested votes were deemed valid; three were against unionization and two were for it. Keating watched officials read the ballots on Zoom last week and felt confident about the win after learning whose votes would be counted a few days before.
“My vote was one of those challenged,” she said with a chuckle. “I was pretty sure I voted yes.”
The chocolate company employees join the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 6, which also represents recently unionized Tartine Bakery and Anchor Brewing.
Chocolate workers’ initial desire to unionize came on the heels of employee cuts and the wish to strengthen worker safety conditions amid a pandemic, along with demands to make pay raises transparent.
Though the votes spell out a union victory, Dandelion Chocolate has a short window of five days to object and ask to count the other four contested votes. If no objections are leveled, the results are certified. Dandelion Chocolate has not returned a request for comment.
Despite the celebration, the union suggested that the victory wouldn’t be all sweet. “Even though we won, the future is still unsure for Dandelion Chocolate Union. Our support inside the company was cut significantly by layoffs and voluntary departures of many pro-union voices,” stated a tweet from Dandelion Chocolate Union.
In June, Dandelion Chocolate initiated layoffs and pay cuts to respond to its financial situation. Chief Executive Officer Todd Masonis said in a statement that most of the financial impact came from “senior leaders who volunteered to exit to make room for others,” though it’s unclear how many and which positions he meant.
Prior reports from Dandelion management and workers revealed amicable discussions, and Masonis declared he was not “anti-union.”
However, some employees disagreed. They characterized it as “union busting,” and said all of those who were laid off or fired played key roles in the unionization effort. Keating was one of them.
Two of the nine employees that were let go had testified in front of the National Labor Relations Board while it was determining the April results, according to Dandelion Chocolate union members.
While layoffs had no effect on the votes or outcome of the certification process, it may have shaken up how the union moves forward.
Keating said the layoffs wiped out a number of supporters from the company like herself, leaving “a higher percentage of those not receptive to the union than before. There’s a change of dynamic.” And, she added that securing a contract can be difficult even after certification for most unions. “It’s just a real uphill battle in the general world of labor organizing.”
Despite the company’s choppy undercurrent, the union is basking in the win.
“We have shown that it is possible to organize a union at a small business,” the Dandelion Chocolate Union statement continued. “It is possible to unionize in 2021, in San Francisco, in the middle of a pandemic.”