There must be something in the water. Within a week of the Tartine Bakery union drive’s successful vote, workers from the boujee chocolate company Dandelion announced their own drive. Like Tartine, and their predecessors at Anchor Brewing, the chocolatiers will file with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 6.
Though the unionizers at Dandelion say the drive has been in progress for about 1.5 years, recent changes within the company have accelerated the process, including high production expectations and COVID-19-related employee cuts. Employees were frustrated by the layoffs, due in part to owner and founder Todd Masonis’ previous claim that “budget wasn’t an issue,” as recounted by chocolate maker Chyler Barraca to SF Eater. Masonis sold his startup Plaxo in 2008 for $200 million dollars.
Undercompensation, factory safety concerns, and feeling unheard are perennial issues, employees say. Allegations of systemic racism and anti-Blackness have also plagued the chocolate factory’s reputation. A report in Mission Local recalled a story in which an assistant manager referred to a photo of an orangutan as a “distant cousin” of one of her Filipino employees. And, on a recent panel held by the University of San Francisco called “BLM and Business: How 2020 Affected Black Owners and Professionals,” Andrew Carter, a Guest Concierge & Donations Manager at Dandelion and a member of the union organizing committee, remarked that he was the only Black employee for at least one of the years working for Dandelion. He said today he believes there to be about three Black people at the company.
50 employees at Dandelion are pro-union according to a Mission Local interview with Christine Keating, a “Lead Chocolate Educator” who has worked at Dandelion for over seven years. Keating also told Mission Local that some workers are still “on the fence.”
When asked about Dandelion workers’ unionization efforts, Masonis suggested he is keeping an open mind in an email to SF Weekly: “We’re excited that our team members and community are passionate about helping to build a better Dandelion and a broader craft chocolate world. We’ve been having many productive conversations around the factory over the past few weeks and we await the results of the election and how we can support our team members in any way we can.”