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S.F. company Imperfect Foods to contest drivers’ vote to unionize

San Francisco Chronicle logo San Francisco Chronicle 4/19/2021 By Chase DiFeliciantonio
a car parked in a parking lot: The warehouse of San Francisco grocery delivery company Imperfect Foods is seen here. It plans to contest drivers’ vote to unionize. © Screen Shot From Google Street View

The warehouse of San Francisco grocery delivery company Imperfect Foods is seen here. It plans to contest drivers’ vote to unionize.

Drivers at San Francisco grocery delivery company Imperfect Foods have voted to unionize, but the company is contesting the results of the election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.

Organizers for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union say the company is delaying the inevitable, while the company says not all the drivers were necessarily able to obtain voting ballots in time.

About 80 drivers were eligible to vote on affiliating with the union. UFCW Local 5 spokesman Jim Araby said around 70% of eligible employees voted with a final tally of 28 to 23 in favor.

In an email, the company said the drivers began looking at unionizing and joining the UFCW last month, with most of them choosing to do so after the vote at the NLRB.

“The company believes that the results were materially impacted by the inability of certain drivers to timely obtain ballots. Because of this possible hindrance in the voting process, the company intends to challenge the results of the election,” the statement said. “Imperfect Foods wants to ensure all voices are heard and will continue to provide its drivers the competitive benefits, wages, and supportive working environment they deserve.”

Araby said after initially accepting the results of the election, the company decision to contest the election was “delaying the inevitable.” He said only two ballots were contested, not enough to turn the tide of the election.

In the meantime, the results have to be certified by the NLRB and any issues with contested ballots sorted out. The 80 drivers will not officially be represented by the union until that process is completed.

Araby said the drivers voted to unionize despite efforts by the company to discourage them from doing so, including requiring workers to attend “mandatory anti-union meetings,” and hiring outside consultants to discourage the union drive.

The company did not address a question about any efforts to discourage unionization at the company.

Araby said affordable health care, wage growth and mitigating increasing workloads for drivers would be at the top of the bargaining agenda if the results of the election stay in the favor of unionizing.

He said workloads for drivers had doubled in some cases as demand for grocery delivery soared during the pandemic, as did the rate of injuries from carrying boxes filled with groceries weighing up to 40 pounds.

“Workers felt like they were breaking their bodies,” he said.

The company did not immediately respond to a question about injuries and workloads.

“We organized with UFCW Local 5 because we know companies that profess to do good, like Imperfect Foods, will pursue bottom line profits over the health and safety of their workers unless they are held accountable,” said Imperfect Foods grocery delivery worker Chris Jasinski in an emailed statement.

“For essential workers like us helping families get the food they need during COVID-19, this is a major victory as we continue to speak out to ensure these are good-paying union jobs our community needs.”

Chase DiFeliciantonio is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: chase.difeliciantonio@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @ChaseDiFelice

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