Representatives from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters protested outside a Chipotle Mexican Grill in San Jose, CA, earlier this week. However, the protest was not in response to the restaurant’s food safety practices. Their target is salad processing company Taylor Farms that supplies produce to Chipotle.
Per the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the salad processor recently recalled more than 150,000 food items and an outbreak of E.coli was linked to celery processed at Taylor Farms in Tracy, CA. Protestors want Taylor Farms to recognize the union representing about 900 workers at its Tracy plant and negotiate with Teamster reps on a labor contract.
In response to the protest, Western Growers, a 90-year old association representing the fresh produce industry in California, told the Salinas Californian, “In today’s protest, the Teamsters have resorted to tired tactics from a discredited union playbook. Unable to convince Taylor Farms’ employees of the value of paying compulsory dues for their representation, the Teamsters have instead decided to bully the company and tarnish Taylor Farms’ sterling reputation in an effort to eliminate the jobs of the very workers they desire to represent.”
Taylor Farms CEO Bruce Taylor told the paper that the union unsuccessfully attempted to organize workers of the Salinas-based company in 2014 and stated, “These allegations are baseless and simply a veiled attempt by the Teamsters to impose their will and force bargaining with the union. Taylor Farms is committed to supporting our employees and their right to freely choose whether or not to join a union through a secret-ballot election process.”
The National Labor Relations Board investigated worker claims dating back to 2013 and determined there is enough evidence to file a claim of unfair labor practices. A hearing could be scheduled to decide if Taylor Farms violated federal labor laws by intervening in a union vote held in March 2015 for plant employees. According to one claim cited in an NLRB document, Taylor Farms distributed fliers to workers in Tracy threatening them “with plant closure and/or job loss if they selected the union to be their collective-bargaining representative.”
NLRB press secretary Jessica Kahanek stated in an email to the Salinas Californian that “[A] Complaint issues when we find merit to the allegations in charges that were filed with the agency. The complaint leads to a trial before an administrative law judge unless there is a settlement.”
According to Robert Bonsall, a Sacramento lawyer representing the Teamsters, a settlement would involve Taylor Farms accepting the Teamsters representing the employees at the Tracy plant. Bonsall also noted that the alternative would be to hold a hearing, and if the employers are found to have violated labor laws, the administrative law judge could order Taylor Farms to recognize the union.