Pittsburgh Grocery Workers Go IWW
Submitted on Thu, 06/22/2006 - 3:50pm
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Stacey Clampitt (412) 758-9045
Evan W. Wolfson (412) 951-5204
East End Food Co-op Workers Committee
PO Box 90315 / Pittsburgh, PA 15224
East End Food Co-op Workers Organize to Improve Conditions and Restore Healthy Workforce at Local Organic Food Store.
PITTSBURGH, PA – Workers at the East End Food Co-op, Pittsburgh’s only member-owned natural and organic food market, have organized with the Industrial Workers of the World 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 could bargain collectively with their employer.
Since launching their organizing drive on May 15th, Co-op workers have requested that the Board of Directors agree to recognize the workers’ demand for collective bargaining rights based upon a showing of majority support for the union. The workers want the Co-op to accept the union through the authorization card-check process, whereby workers who support unionization sign cards authorizing the union to represent them during collective bargaining. To date, the Co-op Board has not accepted the workers’ demand for recognition, but has stated it is willing to re-examine a 2003 Board decision, which states that workers must vote for the union during a representation election held by the National Labor Relations Board.
Workers want the Board to decide at or before the June 26th Board meeting if it will accept the card-check process and count the cards. The union asserts that because a majority of workers have signed cards and are ready to have them counted immediately, any other process toward recognition is unnecessary and pointless, if not obstructionist. “We’re eagerly awaiting a response from the Board so we can begin bargaining,” said Co-op customer service representative, Stacey Clampitt. “We want the Board to accept the authorization cards instead of putting us through a long and tedious election process.” Once an employer agrees to accept the card-check process, a neutral third party will verify the cards and report if they represent a majority of eligible workers. If they do, the employer then officially agrees to recognize the union for the purposes of collective bargaining.
Even without recognition, Co-op workers point out that since their efforts to unionize began on May 15th, management has been encouraged to formally respond to some of the workers’ issues and concerns. Employees received confirmation of a higher starting wage with some increases for current staff, promises of a renewed retirement plan, and plans for an early profit sharing check. “We welcome management’s inspired improvements to our pay and benefits,” said Scott Reigel, produce clerk. “But we need to sit down at the bargaining table as equal partners to negotiate and guarantee improvements in our wages and working conditions.”
The Industrial Workers of the World was founded in 1905 and advocates for the organization of workers within their industries, rather than by trade or occupation. The I.W.W. is a democratic, member-run union, open to all workers with or without collective bargaining rights. The East End Food Co-op Workers Committee is affiliated with the Pittsburgh General Membership Branch of the I.W.W.