Bodo’s Bagels employees, supporters and a few local officials gathered outside of the restaurant’s Corner location on University Avenue to show support for the union efforts of employees at that location who want to join the United Food and Commercial Workers.
Employees on the organizing committee said they wanted to form a union in order to address several concerns including understaffing, wages that they say don’t keep with the area’s cost of living and inadequate paid sick leave.
The union effort includes about 14 employees at the Corner Bodo’s location, one of three in the Charlottesville area.
The crowd included community supporters and union members. Some in the group held signs, including “Union Bagels Taste Best” and “Unionize for Everything, Everywhere All at Once.”
Malcolm Augat, a baker at Bodo’s and member of the union organizing committee, said they like Bodo’s but want to improve it.
“Bodo’s has long been iconic for Charlottesville. If it’s going to stay iconic for Charlottesville, it needs to make sure that it has workers from the city who can afford to live in the city,” he said.
Not all who showed were in favor. Matt Cantarano, who said he’s worked at all three Bodo’s locations and currently works at the Preston Avenue location, said he was against unionization.
“If you want chips, you can work,” he said. “The problem is people are too lazy. They don’t want to work. They just want to get paid for nothing. And I’m opposed to that.”
In a statement yesterday, Scott Smith, of Bodo’s, said management supports “the right of our employees to choose whether or not they want to bring in a third-party representative.”
Virginia is a “right-to-work” state, where employees are not required to join a union or pay dues.
Private-sector employees can unionize if they are voluntarily recognized by management or through a National Labor Relations Board election.
Previously, the state code prohibited local governing bodies from recognizing any labor union or other employee association as a bargaining agent or to collectively bargain with them but that changed last May.
Now teachers and other public-sector employees can negotiate a contract that would cover wages, hours and other work conditions, but first the local government or school board must approve an ordinance to allow collective bargaining.
Since the law changed, Charlottesville firefighters, transit employees and schools employees have proposed collective bargaining ordinances. Albemarle County schools employees have also submitted a collective bargaining resolution.
Charlottesville City Councilors Michael Payne and Sena Magill and Del. Sally Hudson, D-Charlottesville, spoke out in support of the unionization.
Payne said the city has “to get our act together” when it comes to city employees who want to collective bargain.
Charlottesville is currently interviewing consultants who will help create a collective bargaining ordinance. Interim City Manager Michael Rogers told councilors recently that he expects to bring an ordinance that would permit collective bargaining for city employees to council in early summer.
There is also a union representing University of Virginia employees, but they are considered state employees, and there is no state law that requires the university to negotiate with their union.