Before she went to work at Dosha Salon Spa on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard in August, Mary Christ had heard about controversy involving employees voting to join a union. Someone in the local salon business told her that she'd be smart not to mix it up in the company's labor issues.
But she couldn't resist.
Christ, 27, soon voiced support for the employees' association with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which narrowly won a March ratification vote. Within five weeks, Christ was fired after complaining about working conditions.
âThey singled out and attacked me because of my union support,â she says.
The company disputes that, but Christ's firing shows that all is not lovely behind the scenes at what Dosha calls "Portland's premier salon spa."
Dosha has become successful and popular with five metro area locations. Workers launched a union campaign in 2009 after complaining about health care, low wages, favoritism and lack of sick leave, among other grievances. CWA organizer Joe Crane says three employees left after becoming unofficial campaign leaders.
"The first two quit because they were treated so inhumanly by the management," Crane says. "Dosha was intentionally making their work lives hell. It was terrible."
Bob Tiernen, former chair of the Oregon Republican Party, was hired by Dosha as a business consultant two weeks after the union election. Tiernen says Dosha has long paid and treated employees very well. He calls the union's allegations "hilarious" and "simply not true."
The union won the March vote 79 to 66. CWA alleged in unfair labor practice charges to the National Labor Relations Board that Dosha "granted wage increases to employees in an attempt to coerce them into voting against the union.â
Kelanie York, a former Dosha nail technician, say she was asked to remove a temporary tattoo supporting the union and was sent home after reapplying it. She says she was well liked by managers before that. "Then they started moving me to the bottom of the scheduling book," she says.
Linda Davidson, officer-in-charge at the NLRB's Portland office, tells WW the allegations are under investigation.
"The union barely won," Tiernen says. "A union makes charges that cost the company money and create negative press as an incentive to force the company into making agreements. That's all that's happening here—I've seen it before.â
Dosha employees remain divided about the union. Employees run warring Facebook pages: âDosha Workers Uniteâ and âDosha As Is.â
"There shouldn't even be a union in our industry," says Kim Botner, an eight-year Dosha employee. "We're all about making people feel beautiful and good about themselves. The Dosha family isn't here to stand in the way of that by providing negative energy. But that's what the union is doing."
Christ, a massage therapist, joined Dosha in August and wore a red feather in her hair to show her union support. "A few days later [managers] reprimanded me for complaining about my schedule," Christ says, "and threatened my job if I ever so much as talked to my employers about it again.â
She was later told a manager on Sept. 12 claimed to have searched her purse after smelling something suspicious and found marijuana. "That was a complete lie," Christ says. "I took my own drug test and passed it—there wasn't marijuana in my bag." Christ says Dosha never produced the pot the manager claims to have found.
Tiernan says a manager did find marijuana and that no search was needed because the alleged pot was in plain view. Christ's termination letter, which she shared with WW, says nothing about illegal drugs. "Mary had voiced some negative comments to other employees about scheduling and working at Dosha," the letter says. "Management has determined it is not a good fit to continue with employment.â
Crane believes Christ will get her job back. If that happens, Christ plans to return. "Dosha is just trying to force the pro-union workers to quit so they can overturn the vote," she says "The union has work to do, and I want to keep helping.â