Thinly sliced: Startup sells plant-based “meat” for pets, Portland fast food workers union gains steam, and more

This is the web version of a list we publish twice-weekly in our newsletter. It comprises the most noteworthy food stories of the moment, selected by our editors. Get it first here.

E-bike city. Last year, New York City’s Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered police to crack down on electric bikes, also known as e-bikes, which food delivery workers often rely on to ease the strain of long days on chaotic roads. The mayor has said e-bikes pose a safety hazard, and ordered a ban on them last fall. But he hasn’t been able to cite much evidence of a real safety risk beyond nuisance calls from residents to the city’s 311 line. Biking advocates immediately rallied against the ban, saying it would unfairly target immigrant communities who make up a significant proportion of the city’s food delivery workers. They also argued that de Blasio’s e-bike ban ran contrary to the city’s purported “sanctuary city” values. Advocates must have gotten through to Big Bird, it seems, who is now squeezing the brakes on the ban.

What do we want? A contract! How do we want it? Without pickles and onions! Contrary to any reports you’ve read, this would not be America’s first-ever fast food union—that may have been a Burger King in a Detroit Greyhound station, where workers voted to be represented by United Labor Unions in June 1980—but! The Burgerville Workers Union is picking up steam and could be formally recognized soon, according to the Willamette Week. The union, which represents the workers at one of the Washington-based chain’s 42 restaurants—this one’s in Portland, Oregon—has been asking management to recognize them for almost two years. Finally, in February, the fed-up workers, allied with the International Workers of the World, went on strike and organized a Burgerville boycott. The actions seem to have worked. The company has agreed to a formal election, administered by the National Labor Review Board, and if a majority of employees vote yes, then Burgerville will be forced to negotiate with the Wobblies for a contract. The union’s demands include a $5-an-hour raise, better health care, and fair scheduling.

Play dead. If you didn’t already feel terrible about your personal contribution to climate change, now you can feel bad about your pet’s carbon pawprint. The daily diet of American pets has huge environmental impact—if they were a sovereign nation, they’d rank fifth in global meat consumption—resulting in a massive volume of carbon emissions. But Wild Earth, a Berkeley-based startup, has a potential solution, Bloomberg reports: Feed them alternative proteins, the lab-grown and plant-based “meats” supposedly less resource-intensive to produce. (Our take on that debate is here.) As veganism continues to pick up among the not-so-furry friends, will our four-legged comrades jump on the meat-free bandwagon? Woof.

Dirty deals. Last fall, school officials in Chicago ordered a “blitz” campaign to inspect sanitation at hundreds of public schools. But after finding rat poop, pest infestations, and filthy food prep equipment, officials quietly halted the inspections, according to records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times. The companies responsible for the mess? Foodservice giants Aramark and Sodexo. The paper reports that potential fines at a single school could cost up to $37,250.

The Counter Stories by our editors.