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San Francisco Real Food Workers to be Rehired

The union, not identified in this article, was the IWW.  Details on this campaugn are available here:

By Ryan Kim - San Francisco Chronicle, November 26, 2005.

An administrative law judge with the National Labor Relations Board has ruled in favor of 31 employees of a San Francisco organic grocery store who were fired after they began union organizing efforts.

Judge James Kennedy ruled last week that Fresh Organics Inc. and its parent company, Nutraceutical International Corp., violated the law when they closed the Noe Valley Real Foods store in San Francisco in 2003 and fired all of its employees.

The company had argued that the closing was part of a planned remodeling, but Kennedy concluded the move was intended to discourage the workers from organizing a union.

Kennedy said in his ruling that there were "a number of facts which appear, on their face at least, to suggest that (the store's) closure was motivated by antiunion factors rather than due to a neutral business decision."

Stephen Hirschfeld, attorney for Nutraceutical, denied the charges and said the company will appeal the ruling, which was released Wednesday to the parties in the case. "I am convinced my client did nothing wrong," he said. "The closure of the store had no connection to the union activity."

In 2002, Nutraceutical, a Utah maker of nutritional supplements, purchased four Bay Area grocery stores, including three Real Foods stores. In April 2003, workers at the Noe Valley store began discussing the possibility of forming a union.

Nutraceutical later fired two workers who led the organizing drive. The company then announced it would close the Noe Valley store by Aug. 29, 2003. Officials claimed it was part of a larger remodeling project in which the Noe Valley location would become a model store for the chain.

In rejecting the company's claims, Kennedy ordered that 31 employees, including two union leaders, be reinstated with jobs somewhere in the company, and given back pay. The judge ruled the old employees would receive priority for new jobs at the Noe Valley store, should it reopen.

Hirschfeld said Nutraceutical completed the purchase of the Noe Valley store two weeks ago and plans to begin remodeling work soon.

"It's wonderful," said David Rosenfeld, the attorney who represented one of the fired employees. "It gets the people back pay" and gives them jobs elsewhere in the company.

E-mail Ryan Kim at [email protected].