Union-Busting Bread?


If you live here in the Pacific Northwest, chances are that you’ve tried Dave’s Killer Bread, a popular brand of organic wholegrain breads.  The unique story behind the bread is also well known in these parts.  For printed on each bread bag is the personal saga of founder Dave Dahl.  And Dave, we learn from each loaf, is no less than a former con who after spending 15 years in the clink, transformed his life, returned to the family bread business, and was born again as the baker behind Dave’s Killer Bread.

This personal tale of redemption, coupled with the bread’s great taste and the fact that nearly 30% of Dave’s employees are also felons, has helped propel the company to dramatic success.  In fact, since its initial launch in 2005, Nature Bake (the Dahl family bakery responsibly for first introducing Dave’s) has gone from employing 30 workers in its Oregon bakery, to nearly 260.  And today, Dave’s can be found not only in supermarkets in Oregon, but also Washington, California, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Nevada.

Unsurprisingly, Dave’s swift rise has elicited widespread admiration.  The local media has universally fawned over the company, and no less than the New York Times has written glowingly of what it deemed the “best bread to buy in the supermarket.”  In 2011, Dave’s was even named an Oregon Ethics in Business recipient.

But this well-crafted wholesome imagine of a socially responsible company—as so often happens with organic foods in general—masks a troubling labor record.

In fact, according to a report published this week in the Northwest Labor Press (worth reading in its entirety), Dave’s has been aggressively fighting a mounting unionization drive at its Milwaukee, Oregon bakery.

Driven by growing disillusionment over management favoritism and ever-shifting workplace rules and pay practices, workers at the Milwaukee bakery turned to Bakers Local 114 in late 2011.  In response to the worker outreach, the union approached the company about the possibility of commencing a “card check” unionization process (a process which entails workers signing union authorization cards in lieu of a secret ballot election run by the National Labor Relations Board).  The company, however, issued a swift rebuke to the union’s proposal.  And since, Dave’s has been systematically firing union supporters on trumped up charges.  As the Labor Press reports, “An informal count by current and ex-employees at one union meeting produced the names of 23 workers who’d been fired since the summer — roughly one in 10 people employed at Dave’s Killer Bread.”

And indicative of a concerted effort to crush the unionization campaign, those having borne the brunt of these layoffs, the Labor Press notes, were “the squeaky wheels — the assertive ones who spoke up or complained.”

What is particularly troubling about the Labor Press story is the fact that part of the allure of Dave’s Killer Bread (aside from its quality) is that by purchasing it, one gets the satisfaction of contributing to a greater good.  After all, every loaf helps support a second chance for an ex-con.  Thus, to hear of the company cracking down on these very worker, who are likely to struggle finding alternative employment, ought to be especially disturbing.

Dave Dahl, in an email exchange with this writer on Thursday, was quick to label the allegations in the Labor Press report to be “not factual.”  He went on to state that, “We respect our employee’s rights to unionize, and we have told our employees this directly.  Should our employee base wish to unionize, there is nothing standing in their way.”   Such claims, however, are not particularly reassuring.

Indeed, for as the Labor Press reported, the national anti-union law firm Fisher & Phillips has already represented the company in at least one labor dispute.  Of course, such firms are notorious for coaching their clients to preach the great democratic benefits of the secret ballot election, while tirelessly working the flawed National Labor Relations Board certification process to subvert workers’ democratic rights.  It’s all appears a ploy pulled right out of any standard union busting playbook.

What all fans of Dave’s Killer Bread ought to keep in mind then, as long as the company continues to resist unionization at its Oregon bakery, is that no bread is too good to overlook union busting.

Ben Schreiner is a freelance writer living in Oregon.  He may be reached at bnschreiner@gmail.com.

October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?
Ben Debney
Guns, Trump and Mental Illness
Pepe Escobar
The NATO-Russia Face Off in Syria
Yoav Litvin
Israeli Occupation for Dummies
Lawrence Davidson
Deep Poverty in America: the On-Going Tradition of Not Caring
Thomas Knapp
War Party’s New Line: Vladimir Putin is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
Brandon Jordan
Sowing the Seeds of War in Uruguay
Binoy Kampmark
Imperilled by Unfree Trade: the TPP on Environment and Labor
John McMurtry
The Canadian Elections: Cover-Up and Steal (Again)
Anthony Papa
Coming Home: an Open Letter to 6,000 Soon-to-be-Released Drug War Prisoners From an Ex-Con
Ramzy Baroud
Listen to Syrians: The Media Jackals and the People’s Narrative
Norman Pollack
Heart of Darkness: A Two-Way Street
Gilbert Mercier
Will Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite Militias Defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq?
John Stanton
Vietnam 2.0 and California Dreamin’ in Ukraine
William John Cox
The Pornography of Hatred
October 07, 2015
Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Witness to a Troubled Saint-Making: Junipero Serra and the Theology of Failure
Luciana Bohne
The Double-Speak of American Civilian Humanitarianism
Joyce Nelson
TPP: Big Pharma’s Big Deal
Jonathan Cook
Israel Lights the Touchpaper at Al-Aqsa Again
Joseph Natoli
The Wreckage in Sight We Fail To See
Piero Gleijeses
Cuba’s Jorge Risquet: the Brother I Never Had
Andrew Stewart
Do #BlackLivesMatter to Dunkin’ Donuts?
Rajesh Makwana
#GlobalGoals? The Truth About Poverty and How to Address It
Joan Berezin
Elections 2016: A New Opening or Business as Usual?
Dave Randle
The Man Who Sold Motown to the World
Adam Bartley
“Shameless”: Hillary Clinton, Human Rights and China
Binoy Kampmark
The Killings in Oregon: Business as Usual
Harvey Wasserman
Why Bernie and Hillary Must Address America’s Dying Nuke Reactors
Tom H. Hastings
Unarmed Cops and a Can-do Culture of Nonviolence
October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War