With business booming at the Berkeley Bowl, the battle to unionize store employees that ended with a vote of rejection a few short weeks ago already seems a distant memory to most customers.
Though the banners, balloons and buttons have vanished, many employees and the union’s lawyer say the fight is far from over.
David Rosenfeld, the attorney working with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Butcher’s Union Local 120, this week filed a series of unfair labor practice charges against the store, charging that the Berkeley Bowl “engaged in a deliberate and outrageous effort to sabotage the right of its workers to be represented by a union and to bargain a decent collective bargaining agreement.”
The union claims the store fired union supporters, offered and provided increased benefits to bribe employees, and threatened to reduce hours and/or layoff employees if the union won—all of which Rosenfeld, organizers and pro-union employees say, swayed the vote.
“The company engaged in a lot of unfair labor practices which caused the workers to vote no,” said Rosenfeld. “[Berkeley Bowl] has nothing to lose because they won the election and can fight the litigation for years.”
Rosenfeld has asked the National Labor Relations Board to issue an order forcing the Berkeley Bowl to bargain with the union and establish a contract. He said he thinks the charges are substantial enough to force the agreement if the NLRB follows the letter of the law, but added that the litigation process could last two to three years.
With their defeat in the election, pro-union workers must now wait a year before they can file for a new election.
Since their defeat, pro-union employees say they’ve taken the down time to catch up on sleep, homework and family time and struggling with the same issues that promoted them to begin organizing for a union.