But that might come as news to the co-op’s shareholders, who were left in the dark regarding the strides workers are taking toward a greater voice on the job during the co-op’s annual meeting Oct. 22, union representatives said.
“It’s a little disappointing,” UFCW Local 1189’s Abraham Wangnoo said. “A lot of the workers feel the shareholders hold a lot of power, but they’re being kept in the dark when it comes to the things going on with the workforce.”
Now workers are left wondering whether the Wedge might balk at the terms of a neutrality agreement reached during warehouse workers’ organizing drive with the United Food and Commercial Workers four-plus years ago. The agreement covers all of the Wedge’s buildings, and it prevents pro-union workers from picketing or calling for boycotts as long as the Wedge does not interfere in the organizing campaign.
But the agreement hasn’t kept the Wedge from attempting to influence the organizing process, Wangnoo said. After workers approached management in June to discuss the neutrality agreement, management “immediately gave anybody who was making under $11 a raise,” he said. “All these new people who were hired at $10 got a raise just like that.”
Certainly, it was good for workers, but it was also a textbook maneuver used by employers looking to snuff out the spark of collective action. Wangnoo called it the first in a string of “tactics to convince people not to form a union” and “particularly disappointing coming from this employer, given what they’re supposedly about.”
Wedge employees have organized around a variety of issues, including a perceived rise in “corporate culture” at the co-op, a lack of equal opportunity and favoritism among management. They are hopeful, Wagnoo added, that gaining a collective voice will be a step toward creating a “sustainable system of jobs and food” that is consistent with the co-op’s values-driven mission.
The National Labor Relations Board will conduct the organizing election Nov. 16.
Workers at the Wedge’s Co-Op Partners Warehouse, meanwhile, overwhelmingly ratified a new three-year agreement Wednesday. The contract guarantees annual wage increases for all employees and improves language regarding sick leave, the union reported.
It is warehouse workers’ second contract since voting to join UFCW Local 1189 in 2012.