FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Union-Busting Bread?

by BEN SCHREINER

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.

Ben Schreiner is the author of A People’s Dictionary to the ‘Exceptional Nation’.  He may be reached at bnschreiner@gmail.com or via his blog.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail