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Indybay Feature

Labor Day in Noe Valley: Remember the Real Food workers who lost jobs trying to organize

by Art Persyko
Photos of the San Francisco 24th Street Real Food storefront with flyers posted in the windows as a reminder that this past Labor Day was the 6th anniversary of the store closure that shut down their efforts to join a union and cost all 31 employees their jobs.
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Until 6 years ago, the "Real Food Company” was a popular community natural food store in the heart of San Francisco's Noe Valley on the main commercial street there, 24th Street. The store was sold by it's local owners in 2002 to an out of state corporation which, just prior to Labor Day 2003, closed it without warning, which cost all of the store's 31 employees their jobs. The closure shocked Noe Valley residents who had supported The Real Food store for over three decades. According to the corporate owners, a full-scale store remodel was in the works. Terminated employees, however, said that the closure was undertaken to prevent them from joining a union. After a hearing to determine the facts, the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) in San Francisco found that the workers were fired for attempting to join a union, and that decision was upheld by a second NLRB panel in Washington, D.C. A court appeal was filed by the store's owners. The workers have gone on with their lives, as they await a final court decision; their supporters started the Noe Valley Farmers Market; local businesses around the store have suffered from the loss of customers, and some closed; the community continues to do without a local organic food store; and this shuttered storefront is a reminder of it's former vibrant self. The Employee Free Choice Act is currently being considered by the U.S. Congress, and it would allow workers to join or form a union more easily than was the case 6 years ago when the Real Food workers tried to do so under current labor law.
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by Art Persyko
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by Art Persyko
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by Russ
This article fails to mention the so-called "Employee Free Choice Act" removes the existing secret balloting election process when workersv vote to unionize. Is not secret balloting a foundation of free and fair voting? Could not strong-arming tactics come into play if every person's vote is visible, especially at the workplace (retribution, anyone)? It is hoped that persons are not so naive as to think this will not happen.
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