Lush leadership rejects union despite supporting them for other brands - Business Insider

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12/11/2020 9:19:00 PM

Lush employees say the company leadership is trying to quash their attempt to unionize — despite supporting unions at other companies

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and union members would be required to pay a weekly due of $10, which is tax-deductible. While those involved in the union would not release numbers regarding current support from staff, Richard Bensinger, a union organizer and senior advisor to Workers United who is working with Lush employees on the campaign, said the movement has garnered "significant support." He also noted that Lush's anti-union campaign has likely prevented a fair amount of people from joining.

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"I have spoken with workers who have told me that their managers are interrogating them, calling them into the office to question them about union activity such as passing out union flyers or posting pro-union comments on social media, and trying to isolate them as negative people trying to hurt the company," Bensinger told Business Insider.

John Bradney, an employee involved in the unionizing efforts, said he had personally overheard a Lush manager describe those involved in the union campaign as "traitors." Lush logistics employee Bonsitu Hoffman, who also works in a logistics office in Toronto and is involved in the unionizing campaign, said she has been called into HR multiple times for distributing pro-union flyers. headtopics.com

"I totally have received retaliation for being as vocal as I am about the union," Hoffman said, relating how she was pulled into the office one day and "grilled for about an hour" about if she thought that distributing flyers was appropriate. 

"It was literally just a piece of paper," Hoffman said. "And I guess obviously the company doesn't like what's on that piece of paper. They don't want us to unionize, which is why they really started to attack and retaliate."

Lush said that no employees have been reprimanded for pro-union activities. Workers United Canada Council filed a complaint with the OLRB on Thursday against Lush Cosmetics. The complaint argues that Lush has violated three sections ofLabour Relations Act of 1995

, which prohibit employers from interfering with unions and using "intimidation and coercion" to prevent union organizing.The complaint alleges that Lush engaged in anti-union tactics, holding "captive audience meetings" among employees, distributing anti-union flyers, and engaging in intimidation tactics among those who have gone public with their support. The complaint asks that the OLRB declare that Lush violated the Labour Relations Act of 1995 and request an order for Lush to publicize its infractions to all employees. headtopics.com

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Lush did not comment on the complaint.Addressing seasonal employees and pathways to advancementIn some ways, labor laws in Canada are more-worker friendly than in other countries, such as the US. For example, while many USemployment contractsoperate on a "termination at will" basis that does not generally require an employer to give notice to a worker, Canadian employers are required to provide notice unless the employee is terminated for cause. Canada is also more restrictive to employers regarding drug testing employees, and employers have a higher standard for rejecting reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities.

Even so, the Lush union seeks to address other issues that have not been protected in Canadian labor laws. "We know that the core of Lush's philosophies focus on equity and uplifting oppressed voices," reads apublicletter sent from a group of employees to Lush's North American leadership on October 28. "Unfortunately, working conditions at Lush have fallen short of exemplifying these values. Workers have faced consistent concerns around job insecurity, inequitable representation & pay, and erasure of our voices."

The letter, which was signed by nine Lush employees and officially announced the union drive, describes an environment at Lush where workers' voices are not heard and where retaliation exists for those who do speak up.According to conversations with three Lush employees involved in the organizing drive, employees are also seeking a better system for its seasonal workers, many of whom often find themselves in an extended contractual position instead of getting hired full-time.

Christopher Flynn, a member of the company's organizing committee and a current employee in Lush's Toronto distribution center that makes products for digital sales, said he has been hired as a "seasonal worker" in multiple contracts over the last 14 months. headtopics.com

Hoffman, one of the nine employees who signed the letter to Lush leadership, said that she hopes that the union addresses what she described as issues of systemic racism and upward mobility at Lush."There isn't a clear pathway to success for a lot of people," said Hoffman. She explained how members of her team, most of who like her are Black women, have struggled to move up the ranks in the company. "Even though we can yell and scream at the top of our lungs to management, it falls on deaf ears."

A disconnect between values and actionsLush is known for its active support of a variety of social and economic issues, including the support of workers' rights and unions. And while it is not uncommon for a large company to take an anti-union stance, Lush's response to the union drive is particularly at odds with the image it portrays to customers and prospective employees.

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"I just find it so contradictory and just so blasphemous of their own values to behave this way while basically selling what they call an ethical product," said Flynn.Jas Randhawa, the union's organizer with Workers United Canada, said Lush's anti-union tactics are "surprising" given the brand's outward commitment to social justice.

"Lush customers will spot this hypocrisy in a minute and we believe will stand with the workers and their new union," Randhawa said.Lush has come under scrutiny in the past for other behavior that seems to contradict its values system. A recent internal

from Lush's Australian arm found that the company underpaid over 3,000 employees over eight years. Read more: Business Insider »

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