“Every time you tear a leaf off a calendar, you present a new place for new ideas and progress.”- C. Kettering
2015 is ringing in with some new experiences for your Co-op. (This was originally published on our website on December 18th, 2015.)
As we have previously reported, some staff have expressed an interest in union representation. From the first day I heard about this staff initiated effort, I said I would abide by the staff’s decision. I remain firm in that commitment to staff.
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1473 representatives and the Co-op began our formal conversations at the end of September, and in early December we signed a third party election agreement. Additionally, a Neutrality Code of Conduct was also jointly signed by the Co-op and the UFCW. Co-op management has abided to the agreement.
When I first drafted this report I expected to have a vote and its results to share with you. However, the UFCW Local 1473 withdrew from our third party election agreement the day before the election was to take place, and is pursuing an election with the National Labor Relations Board. This will extend the timeline for a staff decision, may also change the makeup of the voting units we originally agreed upon, and will still likely result in a vote of staff.
The Co-op has long been a supporter of unions. During the 2011 public demonstrations against the introduction and passage of Wisconsin’s Act 10, we publicly supported the right for employees to have a voice in their workplace. The Willy East remodel was a $4 million project; our construction expense was $3.2 million of which the vast majority of the work was by union labor. (Some speciality work is not provided in our region by union shops.) Co-op management has moved forward with the belief that if there is a conversation to be had about worker rights and how to implement them, then worker rights should be applied to all. Examples of ways in which we have engaged staff to become informed include opening the community roomsin both of our stores to union representatives to engage directly with staff, providing a management/UFCW jointly prepared staff FAQ answer sheet, hosting five All Worker Meetings with UFCW representatives invited to attend, and providing staff with internal electronic communication resources to share ideas about unionizing and ask questions of each other and management. We will continue to keep the lines of communication open for all workers and look forward to more conversation about how to move forward collectively.
Whicheverway staff decide to move forward, this is a new chapter for our organization. The desire for some staff to unionize has helped to highlight areas in the Co-op that need improvement. In particular, we are working on better communication throughout the organization, and on improving the retail operations. Since the very beginning of our conversations with staff, we have sought to unify our workers with one voice, to represent their desire to vote, and to be respectful of all worker opinions and questions during the process. I will share any further developments on the staff unionizing effort with Owners via our website, social media, and newsletter.