The bakers and dishwashers at Grand Central Bakery's production facility—the people that produce all the bread sold at the company's seven Portland cafés and at grocery stores and restaurants throughout the city—have officially unionized.
On Thursday night, the majority of the employees who participated in the secret ballot election voted to join the Bakers, Confectioners, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union, Local 114, which also represents the bakers at Kroger, Franz, and Oroweat. The final tally, according to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), was 29-9.
This decision was fueled by concerns about understaffing, how sexual harassment complaints have been handled, the high rate of on-the-job injuries, and the need for better pay and benefits.
The path to unionization at Grand Central's production facility hasn't been an easy one. According to a press release sent by Grand Central workers, the majority of the workers there recently signed cards expressing their desire to unionize, but the owners of the bakery refused to accept them. The owners also allegedly sent out anti-union letters to the bakers and dishwashers from the NW Portland facility, and forced their employees to attend mandatory anti-union meetings.
Nor does the company have a great record of dealing with previous attempts by other employees advocating for their co-workers. According to the NLRB, cafe worker Ryan Wisnor was fired "for complaining about safety, wages, and staffing," only to be rehired to settle a complaint. Wisnor also started a campaign to get he and his co-workers to join Laborers Local 483 only to have the cafe close ahead of schedule. While Grand Central co-owner Piper Davis said that the closure had nothing to do with the union campaign, the NLRB states that none of the employees at that cafe were rehired at other Grand Central locations.
Thursday's vote now means that the owners will be forced to recognize the union, and engage in negotiations for a stronger contract and demands for better working conditions at the baking facility.
In the press release announcing this new development, one anonymous member of the organizing committee spoke about the union's chosen slogan: "Unidos negociamos, divididos rogamos: United we bargain, divided we beg."
“We picked the slogan... because it’s the truth," they said. "Collective bargaining is how we make real gains in the workplace and how we improve our lives. Our coming together with BCTGM Local 114 is how we make this happen.”
[UPDATE (12/16/19): Since publishing this story, representatives from Grand Central Baking Company contacted the Mercury with their response to the news: "We are proud that our employees voted on this important issue, and we accept the outcome. We are confident we can work together to address any challenges and concerns. Teamwork is one of our most important values and greatest strengths."
Our original version stated that the facility on NW York that is unionizing was responsible for all the bread and pastries sold by the company. In reality, the bakers only produce bread for Grand Central's Portland locations and for local restaurants and grocery stores. Pastries are made elsewhere, and a facility in Seattle handles the bread baking for their Washington cafés and wholesale customers. We regret the error.]