The unionization effort at Dandelion Chocolate may have just been melted down, as “a number” of Dandelion employees were laid off Thursday. But the unionizers say they’ll fight it.
Update: This post has been updated with a statement from the Dandelion Chocolate Union.
The staff at SF artisan chocolatier Dandelion Chocolate tried to unionize in March of this year, as first reported by Mission Local, hoping for better pay and safer conditions. But that unionization vote was moving slow as molasses, as the Chronicle reported in late April that management and the union drive personnel were haggling over which votes should count. Even then, according to the Chron, both sides would have “to present arguments at hearings with the National Labor Relations Board — a process that could take months.”
Dandelion Chocolate’s union election too close to callhttps://t.co/Foblg7rdtT— Mission Local (@MLNow) April 21, 2021
That point is now probably moot, as many of the employees who’d voted are now former employees. “A number” of Dandelion Chocolate workers were laid off Thursday, according to a statement to SFist from their CEO Todd Masonis. (Note: A statement from the Dandelion Chocolate Union says that “9 employees were terminated or laid off fromDandelion Chocolate.”) It’s unclear how the reductions were split between between their chocolate factory at 16th and Alabama Streets, and the confectioner’s two retail outlets on Valencia Street and at the Ferry Building.
“Yesterday, we unfortunately had to make a number of layoffs at Dandelion,” Masonis said in a statement to SFist Friday morning. “This is not something we do lightly as our goal has been to keep as many team members whole as possible through the pandemic. Given the summer being our slow season, the pace of retail reopening, and our current fundraising progress, we’ve had to make some hard decisions for purely economic reasons.”
“The majority of reductions came from senior leaders who have volunteered to exit to make room for others and from large cuts in pay and hours across the board,” he continued. “In addition, some team members were laid off, at all levels, across the organization — based solely on the department’s profitability, margin, and the team member’s seniority.
“This is an unfortunate situation, as many of these team members have been a big part of Dandelion for years and we are very sad to see them go. We hope this allows us to hunker down and get back to normal in the coming months.”
Update: In a Saturday statement to SFist, the Dandelion Chocolate Union said that all of the employees laid off “were outspoken supporters of the Dandelion Chocolate Union" and that “No workers who were not in support of the union were laid off.”
“On Wednesday 6/2 and Thursday 6/3, 9 employees were terminated or laid off from Dandelion Chocolate,” representatives of the unionization effort said in the statement. “All 9 of these employees were outspoken supporters of the Dandelion Chocolate Union. All 9 of these employees were part of Dandelion Union’s Organizing Committee.”
“It is obvious to us that these actions were taken in order to stop us from exercising our right to form a union, and to weaken any impact our eventual union will have,” they add. “It was made to frighten and intimidate the workers who are still at Dandelion and to prevent them from continuing to organize. We therefore intend to file an Unfair Labor Practice charge next week.”
“If these layoffs were only for financial reasons, why is every single laid-off employee a vocal Union supporter?,” the statement asks. “If these layoffs were done on the basis of seniority, why have employees who have been at the company longer than their coworkers been let go? Why were the rules of reduction drawn in such a specific way that they led to 100% of layoffs being Union organizers? If the company has learned from its previous mistakes and is committed to anti-racism, why were 7 out of the 9 employees who lost their jobs people of color?"
Former Dandelion Chocolate employees accuse company of systemic racismhttps://t.co/ShB3BjtN7b— Mission Local (@MLNow) June 19, 2020
It’s not the first unpleasant HR incident for the purveyor of fancy small-batch chocolates sourced from Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and beyond. Mission Local reported a year ago on a slew of institutional racism charges from former employees, including a very obviously racist attack that a manager posted insulting an employee in a company chat room.
But the company does otherwise mention having a fairly nice set of benefits on their website, including international origin trips “to see cacao grow at the source.” Obviously those trips have not been happening during pandemic travel restrictions, and the other sweet benefits might also be at risk in light of the new cutbacks.
Here at SFist, we have some experience with losing our jobs amid a unionization effort. But it’s not certain that’s what happened here. The local food industry has taken a beating during COVID-19, and restaurant closures have been a regular thing even among businesses that were not unionizing. Layoffs are awful for everyone involved, but they’re better than permanent closures. So if Dandelion can survive by slimming down, maybe some of those jobs can come back. But the fact that they cut staff during a unionization drive, and a highly contentious one at that, will leave a bitter taste in some mouths.
We'll update with comment from the Dandelion union supporters when we have it.
Image: Elizabeth L. via Yelp