A storefront with a sign that says good vibes.
Good Vibes at 603 Valencia St., San Francisco. Photo by Yujie Zhou, Feb. 22, 2024.

By a 24-2 vote, workers at the sex-toy chain Good Vibes voted to form a union today, according to a union organizer. The brand’s flagship store, formerly known as Good Vibrations, has been on Valencia Street for decades. 

Workers will start preparing for upcoming contract bargaining once the union is certified by the National Labor Relations Board. The forthcoming Good Vibes Union will represent 36 employees from the chain’s eight Northern California locations, said Jim Araby, strategic campaigns director of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 5, which the new union will be affiliated with. 

Those covered by the forthcoming union include sales associates, sex educator salespeople, lead associates and assistant managers. The unionized stores will include three in San Francisco, two in Santa Cruz, and one each in Berkeley, Oakland and Palo Alto. The chain has two other stores in Massachusetts, according to the company website

“We need a union here, so our staff can win for ourselves the kind of empowered, pleasurable lives that we encourage for our customers,” said Sam Pollack, a worker at the Palo Alto store who was one of the main forces in the union drive. 

Good Vibes describes itself as “one of America’s first sex-positive, shame-free, woman-friendly places to shop for all things pleasure.”

In 1977, Joani Blank opened the first Good Vibrations at 22nd and Dolores streets to offer an alternative to  male-dominated sex shops. Blank sold the store to its workers in 1992; it went back to a traditional business in 2006, and was soon sold to Joel Kaminsky. 

Neither Good Vibes nor Kaminsky immediately responded to emails requesting comment. 

Mission Local obtained a letter the workers received after they filed for election, in which Kaminsky expressed his bond with Good Vibes over the past 18 years. “We certainly understand that unions are necessary in many companies and industries,” he wrote. “We just don’t feel you need one here.”

The union drive, according to Araby, was initially spurred by management’s response to a Covid-19 outbreak early last year. In the summer, workers reached out to Local 5 about the possibility of unionizing. Workers, Araby said, organized primarily for higher wages, better benefits, and improved health and safety practices. “The work we do is not sustainable if it continues to depend on the underpaying of our workers,” a worker wrote on Instagram.

The forthcoming union announced itself on Dec, 29, 2023, the same day it filed for union election, after “a vast majority” of eligible employees signed union authorization cards, and a letter to management requesting voluntary recognition of the union went unanswered, according to Araby. 

“If Good Vibrations aims to maintain cultural relevance as a force for social change,” Good Vibes Union’s organizing committee posted on Instagram, “It must be by ending exploitation and improving working conditions for the [employees] who keep the company running.”

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REPORTER. Yujie Zhou is our newest reporter and came on as an intern after graduating from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. She is a full-time staff reporter as part of the Report for America program that helps put young journalists in newsrooms. Before falling in love with the Mission, Yujie covered New York City, studied politics through the “street clashes” in Hong Kong, and earned a wine-tasting certificate in two days. She’s proud to be a bilingual journalist. Follow her on Twitter @Yujie_ZZ.

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  1. I honestly wish ’em well. Those of us who were born ‘n raised in SF remember that Good Vibes was founded as a womxn-owned/operated co-op, but (as Violet Blue has occasionally reminisced) it was bought out a loooooooong time ago and is now just corporate as hell.

    I’m not expecting them to go back to their full co-op roots (though, that’d be great), but the workers taking the union vote is a great step in the right direction. ‘Til it’s made final, I’d recommend the Black womxn-owned/-operated Feelmore in Oakland. ♀️

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  2. Let’s go all the way,

    San Francisco has always been about drugs, sex and Rock n’ Roll for me with a little bit of Allen Ginsburg.

    We gave Wedding Licenses to Gay Couples when it was illegal across almost everywhere and I remember the rain and the lines wrapped around City Hall and people from Amsterdam ordering pizza for the crowd and flowers came from all over the World.

    Why can’t we stand up like the men and women and Pick your Pronouns that we are ??

    Seriously, let’s start having BOS hearings about founding a Legal Sex Industry here in San Francisco cause we’ve had an illegal one for how lonng I don’t know ?

    Face it, you can count on Sex to stay in fashion.

    You can count on San Francisco to have a naughty City reputation and we should cultivate it instead of denying it.

    As Jerry Falwell once said on the stairs of San Francisco City Hall :

    “If God does not reign down destruction on San Francisco then he owes Sodom and Gomorrah and apology !!”

    Yep, said that he did.

    Then, he went and spent a bunch of money at one of our best restaurants.

    The next day before he left he paid a hefty hotel bill and I hope tipped generously.

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