San Francisco — Since Dandelion Chocolate workers publicly announced to unionize in March, they have been fighting against CEO Todd Masonis and company management for interfering with their unionization efforts. The union election took place in April, which was too close to call and followed by litigation.
On June 3, Masonis decided to lay off and terminate nine employees, all of whom were union supporters and involved in the organizing committee, citing “economic reasons”, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Out of the nine, a few of them spoke out at a rally this Sunday in front of the Valencia location.
“It’s been a difficult fight to try to organize our workplace,” said Kenneth Cabrera, who was one of the nine workers. “I wasn’t ready to be hated. I wasn’t prepared for the psychological effects that Dandelion’s anti-union campaign had on me. I was not ready to have my name dragged through the mud.”
In response to the layoffs, over 50 Dandelion employees, union members, city elected officials, and union supporters came out to this rally to demand Masonis to hire them back.
“We can talk about recovery and what it means,” said District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston. “But it all comes back to individual workplaces and individual people and making sure that we have their backs, and we do, and we’ll be here as many times as it takes.”
The unionization efforts leading up to the layoffs have been challenging for the workers. However, charges for unfair labor practices have been filed to the National Labor Relations Board, which can be a grueling process, according to lead organizer Agustin Ramirez with ILWU Local 6, the union representing the Dandelion workers.
“Once the briefs are submitted, it can take anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks for the NLRB to make a decision,” said Ramirez.
That doesn’t sit right with Ramirez.
“Littler Mendelson is not cheap. We’ve also dealt with them on many occasions and many different anti-union law firms around the country. It’s one of the top law firms out there. If they’re [Dandelion Chocolate] dealing with economic issues, it just doesn’t make sense to hire them.”
Cabrera also made it clear that the purpose of unionizing wasn’t to vilify the company, but to call for improving working conditions for the workers and bringing forth these issues to improve the company’s culture.
“If Dandelion cared, they would sit down and negotiate with their workers,” he said. “It wouldn’t be targeted layoffs. If they truly cared, Todd Masonis wouldn’t be fighting tooth and nail against unionizing.”
As of now, the workers and ILWU Local 6 are waiting for the investigation results from the NLRB. But they’re hopeful that positive outcomes will arise with community support.
Chyler Barraca, who was one of the 9 workers that were laid off, said they’re going to keep fighting even after receiving the news.
“Being laid off is like a big bummer,” they said. “But the fight’s not over. If anything, I’m more motivated to keep pushing for this as this seems to be the consequences of wanting to make a company better.”
Barraca also said they wouldn’t have done things differently, as they, along with others, have been facing these issues for a few years.
“If I were to come back to the company, I would just keep doing it. I would just keep pushing towards what I have been this entire time.”
Photo by Savannah Kuang