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Saturday, June 15, 2024

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Madison Sourdough employees petition to unionize after owner declined to voluntarily recognize union

Approximately 40 of the employees at the bakery will be able to vote on whether to form a union.

Employees at Madison Sourdough filed a petition to unionize with the National Labor Relations Board Monday.

On behalf of the employees, representatives for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW Local 1473) requested that the bakery, located on Madison’s east side, recognize the union. However, ownership declined.

A Madison Sourdough employee, who requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation, told The Daily Cardinal that Madison Sourdough owner Andrew Hutchison refused to voluntarily recognize the union. 

“He’s acknowledged that the majority of workers want to join UFCW Local 1473, and he stated that he doesn’t want our relationship between him and between the employees to become adversarial,” the employee said. “But, despite that, he’s refused to voluntarily recognize our clear desire to unionize.”

Andrew Hutchison told the Cap Times he believes a union would interfere with the relationship between him and his employees.

“A union introduces uncertainty,” Hutchison said. “I have to work through an organization … [and] I didn’t have a choice in the matter. I inherently don’t trust that.”

The employee said the owner also sent a company-wide correspondence that said a third-party union “will alter the worker-employee relationship.”

“The union is not some scary, nebulous third party coming in to change things,” they said. “It’s us, it’s the supermajority of us, and we’re ready to take a seat at the bargaining table and negotiate for a fair contract.” 

Hutchison requested that a secret ballot election be conducted by the NLRB to determine whether staff members will unionize. 

Approximately 40 employees will have the ability to vote on whether to form a union, according to union representative Justin Benzschawel. This excludes owners Andrew and Emma Hutchison, as well as Molly Maciejewski, executive chef and kitchen and café executive director of operations, and Carly Rossmeissl, bread, pastry and delivery operations director.

Madison Sourdough Creative Director Emily Hutchison said the decision to hold an election would ensure all employees will have the ability to decide whether to unionize.

“We want to make sure that all voices are heard, so we have requested an election,” Hutchison said. “This decision will impact all of our employees, so we want to make sure it is decided by all of our employees.”

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Hutchison said supervisors will be willing to negotiate with the union if it is approved by the workers. 

“If a majority of our staff chooses to be represented by a union, we will absolutely negotiate in good faith with that union,” Hutchison said. 

The Madison Sourdough employee said the terms staff members are bargaining for are reasonable given the demands of the workplace. 

“I do feel like bakery work is pretty romanticized, but it’s really long hours, really early hours and it’s a really physically demanding workplace,” they said. “I feel like the things that everybody wants to bargain for would be reasonable in any workplace.”

Ultimately, the union would help workers negotiate on more equal terms, the employee said.

“As one of my coworkers put it, the relationship between the workers and the boss is an inherently imbalanced relationship,” said the employee. “We just want to even that out when we get a seat at the bargaining table.”

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Francesca Pica

Francesca Pica is the editor-in-chief for The Daily Cardinal. She previously served as the city news editor. She has covered multiple municipal elections, state politics and is a leading reporter on Madison labor issues. She served as an intern for The Capital Times, currently serves as a WisPolitics intern and will also intern with the Wisconsin State Journal this summer. 

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