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Bodo’s Bagels workers vote against unionization

Workers hosted the election after a majority of employees at the University Ave. location supported unionization

Despite earlier efforts to organize for higher wages and internal policy revision, workers at Bodo’s Bagels on the Corner voted eight to five against unionization Thursday. 

Corner workers in support of unionization announced the result through the Bodo’s Union Twitter account, which has updated followers on efforts to form a union at the University Ave. location.

“While we are disappointed with the result, we respect the outcome,” the tweet read. “We remain committed to supporting each other as Bodo's workers and stand ready to organize in the future.”

Workers who wish to unionize can do so either by presenting physical evidence that a majority of workers support unionization — typically signed union-authorization cards — or can host an election through the National Labor Relations Board

United Food and Workers Local 400 — a union representing over 30,000 workers in Virginia and surrounding states — announced that a majority of Corner Bodo’s employees supported unionization May 10. Workers presented union-authorization cards to management on the same day in hopes of receiving voluntary recognition from Bodo’s management. 

At the same time, workers organized to hold an election through the National Labor Relations Board in case Bodo’s management did not voluntarily recognize the union, which it subsequently did not. If an election through the NLRB receives a majority vote in favor, the union becomes certified as the employee’s bargaining representative and employers that fail to bargain with the union are in violation of fair labor practices.

Given Virginia’s status as a “Right to Work” state, union density is very low, with just 4.8 percent of workers in Virginia registered as union members as of 2021.

Bodo’s workers cited stagnant wages, staffing shortages and inconsistent COVID-19 policies as incentive to unionize.

In the UFCW announcement released May 10, Malcolm Augat, member of the union organizing committee and Bodo’s employee, said on that soon, he will not be able to afford to live in Charlottesville due to the rising cost of living if his wages remain stagnant. According to Augat, the starting pay at Bodo’s Bagels has not been a living wage in the three years he has worked there.

The Corner location of Bodo’s has struggled this year with staffing shortages which resulted in occasional closures. In September, management posted an urgent advertisement seeking workers to maintain operations.

“At the moment, we simply don't have enough employees to provide a work environment that affords a reasonable workload and quality of life for our staff and remain open every day,” the post read. 

According to the MIT living wage calculator, a living wage for adults in Charlottesville without children is $18 an hour, while the current living wage in Virginia is $11 an hour. Housing costs have also been on the rise, with an approximate one percent rent increase over the past month. 

In the weeks leading up to the vote, community members wore red clothing on Wednesdays to show support for the union movement. 

A group of supporters also gathered on May 25 with posters urging Virginia Senator Mark Warner to stand with workers by signing the PRO act —  legislation increasing protections for employees trying to organize. The act would override Virginia’s “Right to Work” status, which prevents workers from being compelled to join a union as a condition of employment.

In light of the results, Will Wagoner, Bodo’s employee and organizer with the Bodo’s Union movement tweeted that while disappointed in the outcome, he will continue to work with fellow employees to create better working conditions.

“While disappointed in the results of the election for our @BodosUnion, I'm committed to actively engaging with my coworkers and supervisors to foster the best environment for us all at Bodo’s,” Wagoner wrote. “Good change is on the horizon regardless, and strong progress is already under way.”

Michael Payne, Charlottesville City Council member, has been vocal with his support for Bodo’s employees’ unionization efforts since the campaign launched. Payne echoed Wagoner’s sentiments in a tweet posted Thursday, writing that he hopes this effort raises awareness for the potential of other workers in the private sector to push for unionization.

“Disappointing news, but no organizing effort is ever wasted,” Payne wrote. “Their organizing spread awareness about the need to unionize throughout Charlottesville’s private sector.”