SF Bay Area staff at Good Vibrations vote to unionize

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Friday February 23, 2024
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Employees at Good Vibrations stores in the Bay Area, including the flagship location at 603 Valencia Street in San Francisco, have voted to unionize. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Employees at Good Vibrations stores in the Bay Area, including the flagship location at 603 Valencia Street in San Francisco, have voted to unionize. Photo: Rick Gerharter

The staff of Good Vibrations, a Bay Area chain of sex-positive adult toy retailers, has voted to unionize.

The Bay Area Reporter reported January 3 that workers at the chain had filed for a union election. Workers at all eight of the locations voted in favor of unionizing, according to a news release from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 5.

"The Good Vibrations workers showed an overwhelming majority supported the efforts to organize a union to support their working conditions and we look forward to negotiating the best contract we can for the workers," Jim Araby, strategic campaigns director for the UFCW 5, which has 30,000 members across the Bay Area, told the B.A.R. by phone February 23.

Araby said the vote total was 24 in favor of unionization and two against.

The release contained statements from workers who aided in the union effort.

"We are passionate about the work we are doing and we deserve a sustainable living in our space that values our health and humanity," Good Vibrations employee Danny Ramirez stated.

Added Good Vibrations employee Sam Pollack, "We need a union here so our staff can win for ourselves the kind of empowered pleasurable lives that we encourage for our customers."

Union officials noted one of the reasons workers wanted to join was due to the COVID pandemic.

"The workers were originally motivated to organize after the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated on-the-job safety issues," the union stated in the December release announcing the election effort. "The fight has since expanded to center better wages, job security, and improved health and safety practices in all areas of the workplace."

Pollack, a trans woman of queer experience who is a member of the organizing committee and an employee at the Palo Alto location, told the B.A.R. at the time that the workers had a few gripes but the real catalyst was "a mismanaged COVID situation, which made a number of us pretty angry" last summer.

"We were frustrated that there was a willful withholding of information from staff," Pollack said in a phone interview. "The general manager at that location chose not to inform staff they'd been exposed to COVID, so as a result it was not possible to get the outbreak under control and also, broadly speaking, there's a culture of unwillingness to allow co-workers and employees to call in sick, and pressure to return before they're feeling well, which also contributed to us not having enough sick time.

"That was the specific inciting incident, a COVID outbreak that led to a lot of people getting sick in a way that was unnecessary," Pollack continued, adding the workers are seeking "better wages, better job security, better health and safety practices, as well as accountability of management to treat employees with respect."

Pollack said after doing some research, the workers decided that UFCW 5 would be the best fit.

The chain has three San Francisco locations in addition to stores in Oakland, Berkeley, Palo Alto, and Santa Cruz. There are between 35 and 40 employees.

A different labor group, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, organized Babeland, a similar store in Manhattan, in 2016.

It "secured a historic contract that provided health benefits, wage increases, and added safety and security protocols to protect Babeland's predominately LGBTQ and gender minority workforce," UFCW stated in December. Babeland and Good Vibrations share a parent company, Barnaby Ltd.

The B.A.R. reached out to the company through the phone number on the Contact Us webpage of Barnaby Ltd./Good Vibrations, but did not hear back.

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