July 2021 | Capital Flees: Union Busting at a Vegan Foods Factory
This week, we speak with a group of grassroots labor organizers formerly employed at No Evil Foods, a socialist-themed vegan foods company. They describe their efforts to organize a union at the company’s Asheville manufacturing plant, and No Evil’s subsequent efforts to bust the union – leveraging the COVID crisis – and eventually outsource their work in order to close the factory. We include a response from No Evil as well.
This experience highlights the contradictions created by progressive, market-based efforts to reform the food system. It also reveals the advantages employers have secured for themselves in the 21st century economy, in which labor needs can be rapidly outsourced and troublesome work forces rapidly laid off. Further, employers practice “management through crisis” in which the permanent crisis we all now inhabit – and COVID-19 is only the most recent and severe expression of this crisis – can be used to justify permanent restructuring and precarity. This unfavorable balance of power inside the factory has pushed many away from workplace organizing and towards strategies based on attacking economic circulation, such as the mass farmers’ blockades in India.
In spite of these disadvantages, though, food workers and others are necessarily experimenting with new forms of workplace organizing as they suffer harsher conditions and diminished living standards. These new forms of labor organizing have borne increasing fruit over the past few years, and workers have found novel ways to reverse power dynamics on the shopfloor or in the fast food franchise, as demonstrated by the wave of walk-offs and workers quitting en masse. In a landscape defined by precarity and decentered industrial production, the lessons of the No Evil Foods unionization campaign will certainly be of use to future workplace struggles.