By Don McIntosh
At So Delicious Dairy Free in Springfield, Oregon, a unit of 107 workers has joined Teamsters Local 206. How they did it is rare: In an era when most companies hire union busters, So Delicious voluntarily recognized the union after letting workers make their decision on the union without interference.
So Delicious, which makes non-dairy frozen desserts, is a subsidiary of the giant French multinational Danone, best known in the United States for its Dannon yogurt brand. Danone acquired So Delicious in 2017 when it bought natural foods conglomerate White Wave. Danone then signed a union neutrality agreement with the Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), and the Bakers Union covering facilities in the United States. Under the agreement, once a union demonstrates it has support from 30% of a unit, union organizers can enter the work site to talk with workers on break.
“This is the way the process should work,” said Teamsters Dairy Conference director Rome Aloise.
The Springfield effort began when union rep Mark MacPherson handed out fliers announcing a day-long open house at the union hall half a mile down the road. It was billed as a chance to ask questions and find out what Dannon workers in Portland had won through Teamsters representation. MacPherson says 55 workers showed up to the event, and 53 signed union cards on the spot. At that point the company let the union set up a tent in the parking lot. Two weeks later, the election took place.
MacPherson said Dannon is a socially conscious company that treats employees well. At the Danone-owned YoCream plant in Northeast Portland, the company joined the Teamsters Western Conference pension plan; it’s rare these days for newly union companies to sign onto a guaranteed pension. Still, workers at the So Delicious plant in Springfield have things they’d like to improve. The lowest paid jobs aren’t much above minimum wage, and a mandatory six-day workweek is causing burnout and turnover.