Submitted on Mon, 07/10/2006 - 3:33am
PITTSBURGH, PA—A clear majority of workers have chosen union representation at the East End Food Co-op, Pittsburgh’s only member-owned natural and organic food market. The East End Food Co-op Workers Committee, affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), held an independent union authorization card count after their employer refused to accept the workers’ signed cards as democratic proof of union support. The Thomas Merton Center, a well-known and respected peace and social justice organization since 1972, facilitated the card count and verified the results on July 6, 2006.
On behalf of the Thomas Merton Center, Board member Michelle Burton Brown stated in a written declaration of confirmation, “The East End Food Co-op Workers Committee, an affiliate of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), has obtained a clear majority of workers who wish to have the IWW serve as their exclusive bargaining agent for the purposes of negotiating a collective bargaining agreement covering wages, hours, and all other terms and conditions of employment with their employer, the East End Food Co-op.”
“We couldn’t be more pleased with these results,” said Hope Anne Nathan, a Co-op worker. “We’ve worked really hard to reach out to all of our co-workers and discuss the union so they could make an informed decision. Workers’ support for the union was obvious to us. Now we’ve clearly proved it with a neutral, third-party counting the cards and recognizing the Workers Committee as the bargaining agent.”
Evan W. Wolfson, another Co-op employee said, “The law doesn’t yet compel employers to accept the results of an authorization card-count, but we’re certain that most Co-op’s shoppers and advertisers understand what happens when workers feel disrespected and voiceless. The quality of the Co-op is going to suffer if management doesn’t start listening to their employees.”
The Workers Committee began its organizing drive with the IWW on May 15, 2006 to improve working conditions, pay and benefits, and to address long-standing issues of low staff morale and high turnover. The Co-op employs approximately 50 workers who would be covered by a labor contract should the union prevail in its quest for legal bargaining rights.
At the June 26th meeting of the Co-op Board of Directors, the Board and General Manager heard several testimonials from employees and Co-op members overwhelmingly in favor of unionization and the card-check process. Without making a statement either for or against the union, the Board abruptly departed from it previous practice of dealing with the union and delegated authority and control over union matters to the store’s General Manager. Since then, management has disavowed the card-check process in favor of a secretive ballot election and has hired Braun Consulting Group, based in Seattle, Washington – a known union-avoidance firm with experience in dealing with union campaigns at consumer co-operatives.
Stacey Clampitt - East End Food Co-op Workers Committee