The chocolate is hand-wrapped in golden foil before being machine-wrapped in specially-made Indian paper. After that, it's labeled and sent out to retailers nationally and internationally. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.
The chocolate is hand-wrapped in golden foil before being machine-wrapped in specially-made Indian paper. After that, it's labeled and sent out to retailers nationally and internationally. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

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.”

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Annika Hom

Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused...

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7 Comments

  1. From what I’ve heard from the DC employees I’m friends with, the Union organizers were mostly (but not all) problem employees. Lots of the employees didn’t see the benefit of paying union dues when they already had good pay and benefits compared to similar jobs. Now that the union stuff is settled hopefully everyone can focus on making great chocolate.

  2. It’s crazy how long they’ve been dealing with union stuff. How don’t these people demanding unionization not understand that they’re putting their own jobs and jobs of their teammates at risk? all while they already have the best healthcare and workers comp than anyone else in SF.

  3. Speaking as a Dandelion employee in the group of workers who had a vote — and now, unfortunately, will be forced by the NLRB to unionize *against our will* — this whole experience has been a nightmare: expensive, contentious, demoralizing, undemocratic (with the voices of fewer than 20 pro-union cultists controlling the fates of over 100 other employees), and depressing, and has nearly destroyed an excellent company which offers terrific benefits rarely found in the food industry. Not a single person at Dandelion, at any level, is anti-union — but there’s a size and type of company in which a union *can* be truly beneficial for workers; and a small, privately funded business such as Dandelion is NOT it. As others have said, all of the pro-union organizers (with a few exceptions who were new to the workforce, naive, and easily influenced by a handful of swirly-eyed, pro-union zealots) — who, shockingly, were just as irrational in their zealotry as far-right Trump supporters — were seriously problematic employees who should have been let go long ago, for real infractions — but were not, because Dandelion management believes in second, third, and fourth chances. Christine Keating, quoted often in this coverage, doesn’t seem to have the faintest clue about the havoc and destruction she’s wrought for so many -– while she herself, a child of *extreme* privilege, may not even need to work at all.

    1. Hello Demoralized,
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I would like to diversify the voices, but it has been hard to find those who would like to speak on the record. If you ever wish to discuss your feelings more, feel free to reach out, I would love to hear it and include it. I can be reached at annika.hom@missionlocal.com .

  4. I know Christine Keating, who spear-headed the original unionisation efforts. I’m glad to see that this finally happened. Christine isn’t there anymore, but she’s still fighting the good (union) fight in her new job.

    Unions protect the workers and are necessary to workers’ rights… except police unions, which are designed to protect criminals-in-uniform: https://pluralistic.net/2020/07/28/afterland/#selective-solidarity That faux “union” can go.

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