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.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Geoffrey McDonald
Obama’s Overtime Tweak: What is the Fair Price of a Missed Life?
Brian Cloughley
Hypocrisy, Obama-Style
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
A Day of Tears: Report from the “sHell No!” Action in Portland
Tom Clifford
Guns of August: the Gulf War Revisited
Renee Lovelace
I Dream of Ghana
Colin Todhunter
GMOs: Where Does Science Begin and Lobbying End?
Ben Debney
Modern Newspeak Dictionary, pt. II
Christopher Brauchli
Guns Don’t Kill People, Immigrants Do and Other Congressional Words of Wisdom
S. Mubashir Noor
India’s UNSC Endgame
Ellen Taylor
The Voyage of the Golden Rule
Norman Ball
Ten Questions for Lee Drutman: Author of “The Business of America is Lobbying”
Franklin Lamb
Return to Ma’loula, Syria
Masturah Alatas
Six Critics in Search of an Author
Mark Hand
Cinéma Engagé: Filmmaker Chronicles Texas Fracking Wars
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Patrick Hiller
The Icebreaker and #ShellNo: How Activists Determine the Course
Charles Larson
Tango Bends Its Gender: Carolina De Robertis’s “The Gods of Tango”