Bon Appetit Workers Vote Against Union

Bon Appetit employees at Emory University voted 132-52 against unionizing Feb. 2.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) must certify the results, which can take up to a week, Bon Appetit Director of Communications Bonnie Powell told the Wheel Feb. 5, adding that the company will release a statement when the results are official.

Southern Regional Director of Workers United (SEIU) Harris Raynor wrote in a Feb. 4 email to the Wheel that NLRB held the election after some Bon Appetit employees at Emory, including those who work at Oxford College, signed authorization cards to express their desire for union representation.

“If at least 30 percent of workers sign cards or a petition saying they want a union, the NLRB will conduct an election,” the NLRB website reads.

Raynor wrote that while he accepts the employees’ decision, a successful vote to unionize often takes more than one attempt because employers can mislead their employees.

“The tremendous imbalance of power [between Bon Appetit employees and their employers] created an environment of fear and intimidation,” Raynor said. “Truth is often a casualty of a hostile election process.”

EmoryUnite, a Laney Graduate School (LGS) advocacy group, highlighted employee grievances and expressed disappointment that the vote failed in a Feb. 2 Facebook post.

“It seems like management’s anti-union campaign was successful in swaying votes,” the Feb. 2 post reads. “The more workers in our workplace who organize, the more power we will have collectively to ensure fair labor practices for all of Emory’s employees!”

The vote was originally set for Jan. 26 but the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) postponed the vote due to the federal government shutdown.

Emory’s Associate Vice President for Media Relations Nancy Seideman wrote in a Feb. 3 email to the Wheel that Emory University respects the Bon Appetit employees’ decision.

“The University supports a fair and positive work environment for its employees and, while Bon Appetit, Inc. is a separate entity, the University expects its vendors to do the same,” Seideman wrote. “Emory will continue to work with Bon Appetit to ensure the highest level of quality dining service for our community members.”

Former chef and current DUC-ling employee William Bradley told the Wheel last week before the vote that establishing a union would bring fairer wages, benefits, vacation times and work hours.

“If it takes getting a union to get recognized then that’s what we’ll have to do,” Bradley said. “Right now there is an imbalance of power. A contract will level the playing field because workers will get to have a say in these things, and who better to give input than the workers who do the job everyday.”

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