Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 7901 called it quits at Dosha Salon Spa on Aug. 16 — a week before a scheduled decertification election was to have taken place. Local 7901 president Madelyn Elder said the decision to “disclaim interest” was a painful one, and came after a discussion with a committee of pro-union workers. Sentiment among Dosha workers was running two-to-one against continued union representation, Elder said. Hair stylists, massage therapists, estheticians and other workers at the five-location Aveda-branded chain had voted 79 to 66 to unionize on March 30, 2011. But Dosha’s owners never agreed to a union contract.
Dosha hired former Oregon Republican Party chair Bob Tiernan to oversee negotiations, which were handled by his associate, Al Orheim. The negotiations went nowhere, Elder said: The union made all sorts of proposals, to which the employer’s response was “no” — even to a proposal for direct deposit of paychecks.
When there is no union contract a year after workers vote to unionize, the National Labor Relations Act allows a decertification vote.
“Employers know they can wear us down, and at the end of the year, get workers to sign an anti-union petition,” Elder said. “All they have to do is say, ‘Well, what did they accomplish for you?’ They say, ‘What’s in your contract? Oh, you don’t have a contract. Then why do you have a union?’”
Meanwhile, turnover took its toll, of employees and of union supporters. Elder thinks a majority of those employed at Dosha today were not there a year ago, when the vote to unionize took place. And most of the actively pro-union workers quit for better jobs elsewhere as bargaining dragged on.
“Our people stuck it out as long as they could,” Elder said. “But our committee started leaving because they believed that we weren’t going to get a contract. And they were absolutely correct. We could have gotten a contract if we’d agreed to everything staying the way it is now, but why would we do that?”
Dosha Salon Spa union campaign, from the beginning:
- Why Dosha workers wanted a union.
- High hopes at first: Dosha workers celebrate their union win, and formulate bargaining goals.
- Dosha hires anti-union consultant Bob Tiernan, who tells workers at a meeting that the company is going to act as if there’s no union there.
- It becomes clear Dosha is going to fight, and protesters take over the street outside the Hawthorne location. Portland Jobs with Justice names Dosha 2011 “Scrooge of the Year.”
- Dosha commits multiple labor law violations, later fires a pro-union worker, fires yet another, and commits even more labor law violations.
- Protesters picket outside Dosha’s Northwest location, and briefly occupy the Aveda school, for which the union president later pleads guilty to trespass and is sentenced to community service.
- The National Labor Relations Board concludes Dosha committed multiple labor law violations, and Dosha settles out of court, paying $7,000 to a fired massage therapist and agreeing to remove surveillance cameras from the break room.
- Anti-union workers submit signatures calling for a decertification election.