Wedge Co-op dumps 'anti-union' law firm: 'We made a mistake'
The Wedge Co-op has dropped Seaton, Peters & Revnew as its law firm for labor negotiations with newly unionized warehouse workers following critical feedback from members.
Wedge board president Sarah Wovcha says she received numerous emails from members about the law firm's perceived "anti-union" bias. Members were concerned that the firm's hiring was "inconsistent with the Wedge's cooperative principles."
"What I said to those members in my response, and what I'm saying to you now, is we apologize," Wovcha says. "We made a mistake."
Curtis Neff, a labor organizer at UFCW 1189, expressed concern earlier this week that the firm is "union-avoidant," or "union-busting."
After the Wedge began receiving feedback from members, Wovcha says she turned to Google and found an op-ed ("Dayton Should Let Go of Child-Care Union Plan") published earlier this month in the Star Tribune by Doug Seaton.
"What's relevant from the Wedge's point of view is having a law firm that publicly published this opinion that was critical of the governor's efforts to unionize was not really sending the message we would like," Wovcha explains. The Wedge wants a law firm more "publicly neutral," she says.
The Wedge hired Seaton, Peters & Revnew due to concerns about the long-term cost of negotiations, Wovcha says, not in an attempt to bust the workers' union.
The Wedge was represented by Dorsey & Whitney during the warehouse workers' unionization drive, but that bill ended up being more than the grocery store expected. The Wedge asked local law firms to bid on the negotiations. Seaton was "competent" and came at the "most reasonable" price.
"We were honestly trying to be good stewards of the Wedge by saving money in what's probably going to be an expensive process," Wovcha says.
When the Wedge hired Seaton, Wovcha explains, the board told him they "wanted to be fair and neutral, and he agreed he could do that." But after the membership outcry, the board decided to re-examine the decision and change representatives.
The Wedge has rehired Dorsey & Whitney to handle its negotiations with the union.
"Dorsey has a long record of productive labor negotiations, including contracts between many local grocers and the UFCW Local 1189, our warehouse staff's chosen representative," Wovcha explained in an email.
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