The meal-kit company HelloFresh is paying thousands of dollars each day to anti-union consultants in an effort to foil an organizing campaign by workers, according to federal disclosure forms.
Filings with the Labor Department dated Oct. 7 (here and here) show that Germany-based HelloFresh is forking over $3,500 a day, plus expenses, to each consultant hired through the “union avoidance” firm Kulture Consulting, which is run by CEO Peter List. The filings list seven different consultants being used between two HelloFresh facilities in Colorado and California, suggesting the company could spend more than $20,000 in a day if all the consultants were deployed.
HelloFresh declined to say how large a tab it had run up, but a spokesperson said in an email that the company respects its employees’ rights and wants to “present the facts” so they can make informed decisions.
“Much like unions that hire professional organizers, we are currently working with experts to support HelloFresh in sharing the facts with employees at our distribution centers,” the spokesperson said.
The hospitality union Unite Here has been organizing workers in the two kitchen factories, where workers prep food kits that go out to customers’ homes with instructions on how to cook them. The union has already filed petitions with the National Labor Relations Board to hold elections. If it succeeds, it would represent around 1,300 workers between the two locations.
“They’re one of these firms that says, ‘Save the Earth, screw the workers.’”
It’s common for companies to hire anti-union firms when dealing with an organizing drive, so they can hold group and individual meetings with workers to try to persuade them to vote against the union. Kulture Consulting has become a go-to for employers. According to the filings, Kulture has subcontracted much or all of the HelloFresh work out to other firms or individuals.
Like HelloFresh, Amazon also hired anti-union consultants when the retail giant was dealing with an organizing effort by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union earlier this year. Workers attended group meetings with outside consultants every day for weeks during that campaign. The union lost the election in April by a wide margin.
On Tuesday, Unite Here posted a photo to Twitter of a consultant giving a presentation to a group of HelloFresh workers. The slide read, “Remember, union organizers are a union’s sales team and can trick workers into the union.”
The disclosure forms indicate that consultants also planned to hold “one-on-one” meetings with workers.
Some workers on HelloFresh’s assembly lines recently told Vice that they’ve sustained injuries on the job and have a hard time covering rent due to low wages. “It’s a cycle of low-paying work and having to work back-to-back jobs. We believe that having a union will really change things,” worker Mary Williams told the outlet.
D. Taylor, president of Unite Here, told HuffPost in an interview that HelloFresh likes to talk about “social responsibility” ― it has a page devoted to the issue on its website ― but the company’s concerns don’t extend to workers’ rights. The company’s code of ethics notes “the importance of promoting human rights and the rights of workers throughout our operations and our supply chain.”
“That’s all rubbish. They’re a typical company. … They’ve hired the big anti-union consultants,” Taylor said. “They’re one of these firms that says, ‘Save the Earth, screw the workers.’”
This story has been updated with a response from HelloFresh.