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.

More articles by:

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.

Weekend Edition
March 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Roberto J. González
The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections
Paul Street
Deplorables II: The Dismal Dems in Stormy Times
Nick Pemberton
The Ghost of Hillary
Andrew Levine
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Paul de Rooij
Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Coming in Hot
Chuck Gerhart
Sessions Exploits a Flaw to Pursue Execution of Meth Addicts
Robert Fantina
Distractions, Thought Control and Palestine
Hiroyuki Hamada
The Eyes of “Others” for Us All
Robert Hunziker
Is the EPA Hazardous to Your Health?
Stephanie Savell
15 Years After the Iraq Invasion, What Are the Costs?
Aidan O'Brien
Europe is Pregnant 
John Eskow
How Can We Live With All of This Rage?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Was Khe Sanh a Win or a Loss?
Dan Corjescu
The Man Who Should Be Dead
Howard Lisnoff
The Bone Spur in Chief
Brian Cloughley
Hitler and the Poisoning of the British Public
Brett Wilkins
Trump Touts $12.5B Saudi Arms Sale as US Support for Yemen War Literally Fuels Atrocities
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraqi Landscapes: the Path of Martyrs
Brian Saady
The War On Drugs Is Far Deadlier Than Most People Realize
Stephen Cooper
Battling the Death Penalty With James Baldwin
CJ Hopkins
Then They Came for the Globalists
Philip Doe
In Colorado, See How They Run After the Fracking Dollars
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Armed Propaganda
Binoy Kampmark
John Brennan’s Trump Problem
Nate Terani
Donald Trump’s America: Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
Steve Early
From Jackson to Richmond: Radical Mayors Leave Their Mark
Jill Richardson
To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done
Ralph Nader
Ten Million Americans Could Bring H.R. 676 into Reality Land—Relief for Anxiety, Dread and Fear
Sam Pizzigati
Billionaires Won’t Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk
Sergio Avila
Don’t Make the Border a Wasteland
Daryan Rezazad
Denial of Climate Change is Not the Problem
Ron Jacobs
Flashing for the Refugees on the Unarmed Road of Flight
Missy Comley Beattie
The Age of Absurdities and Atrocities
George Wuerthner
Isle Royale: Manage for Wilderness Not Wolves
George Payne
Pompeo Should Call the Dogs Off of WikiLeaks
Russell Mokhiber
Study Finds Single Payer Viable in 2018 Elections
Franklin Lamb
Despite Claims, Israel-Hezbollah War is Unlikely
Montana Wilderness Association Dishonors Its Past
Elizabeth “Liz” Hawkins, RN
Nurses Are Calling #TimesUp on Domestic Abuse
Paul Buhle
A Caribbean Giant Passes: Wilson Harris, RIP
Mel Gurtov
A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington
Seth Sandronsky
Hoop schemes: Sacramento’s corporate bid for an NBA All-Star Game
Louis Proyect
The French Malaise, Now and Then
David Yearsley
Bach and the Erotics of Spring