Amy’s Kitchen employees get free legal help in fight against Teamsters Local 665

(The Center Square) – Amy’s Kitchen employees in California and Oregon are now getting free legal help in their fight against Teamsters Local 665, which is seeking to gain union control of their workplace.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRWLDF) has taken on their case after being contacted by multiple employees.

Local news reports have shown clashes between factory workers at the southwest Santa Rosa, California, food processing site. Some have filed complaints about working conditions and the union and some workers have called for a boycott of the company’s products. The union also filed a complaint with OSHA alleging “serious violations of health and safety regulations” in January, claiming “workers continue to get injured.”

Amy’s Kitchen is the sixth largest U.S. maker of frozen meals in the U.S. and the largest producer of organic vegetarian packaged foods, the North Bay Business Journal reports.

“Amy’s Kitchen is non-union, however, there is an active organizing campaign with Teamsters Local 665, in response to egregious working conditions, high rates of injuries, and ongoing exploitation,” Tony Delorio, principal officer of the Teamsters Local Union No. 665, wrote in the complaint. “Despite organizing efforts, we want to reiterate that hazards workers face require immediate attention from Cal/OSHA and continue to lead to injuries and possible fatalities every day.”

In a lengthy Instagram post last month, Amy's Kitchen co-founder Andy Berliner explained how the company brought in third-party auditors, reviewed internal practices and safety record, and met with over 500 employees. After talking with them, he wrote, “what I found was not what is being said.” Much of what was claimed about the work environment “was just not true,” he said, and gave examples of how the workplace meets OSHA regulations.

“It has been said that we are union busters,” he added. “This couldn’t be further from the truth. I have told every one of our employees who has asked that unionization is their choice – whether yes or no. And what was resoundingly clear is that our employees are not asking for boycotts and in fact are saddened and scared by this negative campaign led by the union.”

Amy’s Kitchen also issued a statement, saying, “We are disappointed the union is calling to boycott the very products that our employees cook with such care.”

The company has invested millions of dollars in safety equipment and practices and has a plan to invest another $50 million in safety-related projects over the next five years, Berliner says. Its “safety rate in Santa Rosa is twice as good as our industry standard,” he added, and the company remains committed to the safety of its workers.

A tactic being used against the company, the sister organization of NRWLDF, the National Right to Work Foundation (NRWF), said is an attempt by the union to have employees sign union “authorization cards.” The cards indicate support for the union, which the union then counts as a vote by employees to unionize without actually having an election. Under NLRB rulings, if union officials have enough union cards, 50% plus one employee, they can bypass the secret-ballot election process and gain power in a workplace simply by submitting the cards to an employer.

The approach being taken to unionize at Amy’s Kitchen is “a classic example of a Big Labor corporate campaign,” the NRWF said in a statement. Instead of gaining the voluntary support of workers in a secret-ballot vote, union organizers “attack an employer with the goal of having the company assist in imposing the union on the workers, usually via a coercive ‘card check’ scheme,” it argued.

But there’s a bigger issue at play, NRWF said. Amy’s Kitchen employees fighting the union may be in the crosshairs of a larger union objective to bring back a decades old precedent called Joy Silk, established in a 1949 Joy Silk Mills decision. It allows a union to be recognized if a majority of workers sign union cards and without a secret-ballot vote even if employees want one. The method was rejected by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and federal courts roughly 50 years ago.

NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo filed a brief April 11, calling on the NLRB to reinstate Joy Silk. If it were implemented, such a move would be “a monumental change that would move a barrier for unions to organize new workplaces,” Bloomberg Law reported. However, it would be challenged in court.

Since Abruzzo has the authority to choose which cases come before the board, if Amy’s Kitchen were one of them, it’s widely believed Abruzzo would use it to resurrect Joy Silk.

“If Teamsters officials and their allies truly respected the free and un-coerced choice of the Amy’s Kitchen workers for whom they are claiming to speak, they would not be using such aggressive tactics to try to impose union control from the top down on workers,” NRWF president Mark Mix said in a statement. “Unfortunately, such tactics are being greenlighted by President Biden’s handpicked Big Labor cronies at the National Labor Relations Board, who in their effort to expand forced union dues ranks want to deprive workers of the protection against union intimidation tactics afforded by a secret-ballot vote.”

The NRWLDF has issued a special legal notice in English and in Spanish to help Amy’s Kitchen employees understand their rights. It states that employees have a legal right to not sign union authorization cards and to revoke any authorization cards they may have signed. They can also sign and circulate a petition against monopoly union representation.

It’s unlawful for Teamsters bosses to threaten or coerce employees to sign such cards, the NRWLDF adds.

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