UPDATE: Dec. 17, 2021: Workers at HelloFresh's distribution center in Richmond, California, have voted not to join labor union Unite Here, according to statements from the meal kit company and the labor organization.
HelloFresh said the 289-198 vote in an election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board underscores the trust employees have in the meal kit company.
"We have emphasized throughout this whole process that we support a free and fair election. Employees in Aurora and Richmond have made it resoundingly clear that they do not want union representation, and we respect their decision. We are grateful for all the employees who participated in these elections, no matter how they voted," a HelloFresh spokesperson said in a statement.
Unite Here International President D. Taylor said in a statement that HelloFresh had coerced workers into rejecting unionization. The union "has filed a charge of 'unfair labor practices' (ULPs) allegedly committed by HelloFresh managers or its anti-union consultants prior to the union vote in Richmond … we are determined to hold HelloFresh accountable for its brazen and disgusting anti-union tactics," Taylor said.
- Employees at meal kit company HelloFresh's distribution center in Aurora, Colorado, have voted not to unionize, according to emailed statements from the company and Unite Here, the union that had sought to represent the workers.
- The 166-91 vote by the workers to reject union representation follows a campaign to organize them that came together in response to what Unite Here said are unsafe working conditions at the HelloFresh facility.
- The unsuccessful effort by HelloFresh workers to unionize in Colorado comes as thousands of Kroger workers in the Houston area prepare for a potential strike.
The unionization effort at HelloFresh's Colorado production center may be over, but acrimony between the German meal kit company and its workforce continues.
In an emailed statement, Kevin Abels, president of the Denver chapter of Unite Here Local 23, said HelloFresh pressured workers not to support joining the union. "HelloFresh spent thousands of dollars a day on anti-union consultants and held repeat captive audience meetings while workers were on the clock. These tactics are undemocratic, and we are evaluating all options to support workers," Abels said.
Meanwhile, HelloFresh workers at a plant the company operates in Richmond, California, are considering whether to unionize, with votes on the proposal scheduled to be counted on Dec. 15, according to the National Labor Relations Board.
Unite Here claimed in September that conditions at the Colorado plant are hazardous, adding that workers have been hit hard by the pandemic and overwhelmingly said in a survey of workers at the Colorado and California plants that they face financial hardships.
HelloFresh, however, dismissed claims that it does not treat its employees properly, and a spokesperson for the company said in an emailed statement that the outcome of the vote not to unionize "reflects our employees' trust in HelloFresh to work in their best interest."
"We are committed to fostering an open and direct dialogue with our employees and continuously look for ways to keep improving. ... HelloFresh prioritizes its employees' health, safety and wellbeing above all else. The company believes in taking care of its employees, and is proud to be an employer of choice in every community it operates, including in Aurora," the statement said.
HelloFresh has posted strong results in 2021. The company saw its active customer count in the United States rise by almost 40% year-over-year during the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30, while orders were up by nearly 42% compared with the same period in 2020.
Even as HelloFresh workers in Colorado opted not to join Unite Here, employees of the company in Newark, New Jersey are engaged in their own unionization effort, according to officials of the Brotherhood of Amalgamated Trades (B.A.T.), which wants to represent the workers. The union is currently laying the groundwork for a possible vote by the workers next year about whether to join it, said Brendon Dever, treasurer of B.A.T. Local 514, which is based in White Plains, New York.
Tension between HelloFresh employees and the company is simmering as thousands of unionized Kroger workers in the Houston area prepare for a possible strike against the grocery chain.
According to the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 455, 97% of workers at stores in the region who belong to the union voted earlier this month to authorize a strike in response to "cuts and takeaways" by Kroger.
The union said on Tuesday that it has scheduled talks with Kroger for Nov. 30 to settle the two sides' protracted dispute. "While we know there is much more negotiating to do, returning to the bargaining table offers the hope that Kroger will finally do what is right," Brandon Hopkins, president of UFCW Local 455, said in a statement on the union's website.
Kroger said it is committed to providing its workers with improved pay and benefits, noting that it is spending $281 million on its Houston associates, including $56 million in wage increases through April 2022. But the company made clear that it is committed to keeping its stores running even if workers walk off the job.
"Nobody wins in a strike, not our associates, not our customers, and not our community. And while we hope it doesn’t come to it, if there is a strike, we will implement our continuity plan that keeps our stores open for customers looking to finally celebrate the holidays with loved ones," Kroger Houston President Laura Gump said in a statement.
Workers at instant-needs delivery company Gopuff are also unhappy, with hundreds participating in a one-day strike on Tuesday to protest the company's employment practices and demand better pay, according to media reports.
With many retailers struggling to shore up their workforce amid a broad labor realignment sweeping the U.S., workers have more leverage currently than they've had in years past. Companies have responded by boosting wages and benefits and by adding novel perks like free smartphones. Earlier this week, Target announced it would keep its stores closed on Thanksgiving for good — a move CEO Brian Cornell positioned as a way for workers to get more time with their families.