Local unionists in six cities ramped up public pressure on Dosha Salon Spa Feb. 7 — several days after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) accused the company of multiple violations of federal labor law.
Dosha is an Aveda-branded salon with five Portland-area locations. Last March its employees voted to join Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 7901. But Dosha hired former Oregon Republican Party chair Bob Tiernan to handle negotiations over a first union contract, and no contract is yet agreed to after over eight months of meetings with Tiernan associate Al Orheim.
So on Feb. 7, union staff, members, and supporters leafleted outside Aveda’s Minneapolis headquarters, at Aveda locations in Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington DC., and at all five Dosha stores.
Unionists also picketed Dosha’s Northwest Portland location and briefly occupied Aveda Institute Portland, a beauty school which is owned by Dosha co-owner Ray Motameni.
Four days before the blitz, the NLRB issued a complaint against Dosha, and set a March 20 date for an administrative law judge to hear the charges. Most of the alleged labor law violations involve management misconduct before and after the union election — threats, inducements, surveillance and discipline — all to discourage workers from voting for the union, or to dampen hopes for a first contract, after workers voted to unionize anyway.
Management also installed several surveillance cameras at the Hawthorne location, where support for the union is most active. Cameras are aimed not at cash registers but at areas where employees meet and discuss. Local 7901 president Madelyn Elder says managers are using them to monitor pro-union workers, with chilling effect.
The NLRB also objected to numerous rules in Dosha’s employee handbook that unlawfully restrict employees rights to discuss wages and working conditions with each other.
Some violations listed in the complaint could be resolved if Dosha posts a notice promising not to do those things. But the complaint also includes a more serious charge: that Dosha fired massage therapist Mary Christ because of her support for the union.
Soon after she was hired, Christ joined her new co-workers in demonstrating support for the union by wearing red feathers in their hair. After that, Christ says, she was called into the office for several intimidating meetings with managers, and ultimately, terminated on Sept. 12.
“I don’t regret it at all, because [showing the union colors] was the right thing to do, and it’s what I believe in.”
Christ is a 27-year-old single mom with a two-year-old son to support and $14,000 in student debt from Ashmead School of Massage to pay down. She would have made $11 or $13 an hour at Dosha, but says because she agreed to do massage 35 hours a week, they paid her $15 an hour. Now, she’s at Hand and Stone massage in Happy Valley, where she says employees are paid and treated better than at Dosha.
Christ says Dosha HR manager Tricia McMackin — the same manager who fired her in September — called Jan. 26 to offer $500 to $1,000 if she’d drop her case at the NLRB. If she didn’t accept the offer, McMackin told her, going to court could take up to a year to finalize.
“I said, ‘No, I want what the NLRB has determined is rightfully mine: my job back plus back pay,” Christ said.
To help publicize wrongdoing by Dosha, CWA reached out to other unions for support. On Feb. 7, local central labor councils mobilized leafleters in other cities, while in the Portland area, the Oregon AFL-CIO dispatched about 40 unionists for three hours of leafleting outside all five Dosha locations. Leafleters included staff and members of CWA, AFT-Oregon, OSEA, ONA, AFSCME, Machinists, and Working America. They also collected 100 signatures on support petitions.
The day’s most heated interaction wasn’t at one of the Dosha salons, however, but at Aveda Institute Portland, where a group of about 80 protesters encountered Dosha co-owner Ray Motameni and several managers. For a noisy 10 minutes, the school — many of whose graduates go on to work at Dosha — was invaded by supporters of Portland Jobs With Justice who were shuttling around the Portland area on buses for an afternoon of protests.
At one point, Elder – the Local 7901 president – addressed students via bullhorn. Several students yelled back that Aveda is not the same as Dosha, while others yelled “let her speak.” The problem, Elder tried to explain, was that the students may graduate $10,000 in debt only to make starting wages at Dosha of not much over minimum wage. CWA is seeking wage increases in its negotiations with Dosha.
Moments into the beauty school takeover, Aveda Institute Portland managers called police, and a squad of five officers arrived as demonstrators were re-boarding their buses. Managers spoke emotionally about “scare tactics,” declared that the union should confine itself to the bargaining table, and said they wanted to press charges for trespassing. Protesters, meanwhile, denied that they’d heard any order to leave in the din of chanting and yelling. In the end, no arrests were made.
Elder says Dosha also has implemented several union proposals so far, including a safety committee, biohazard training procedures, and hepatitis B vaccinations. And Dosha agreed to reimburse employees for bank fees they incurred after a rash of bounced paychecks in September. Elder said Dosha paychecks bounced for at least 20 workers, and then at least 7 workers two weeks later. Ironically, direct deposit of paychecks was one of the first union proposals in bargaining, to which Dosha did not agree.
In December, the NLRB dismissed a separate charge in which CWA said it was unlawful for Dosha to change its health care plan without the agreement of the workers. CWA is appealing the dismissal of the charge.