Wedge Co-op holds first bargaining session with warehouse workers' union
The Wedge Co-op recently held its first bargaining session with union officials representing the co-op's warehouse employees, and both sides are optimistic about negotiations.
Wedge members rebelled in April after City Pages reported that the co-op had hired "anti-union" law firm Seaton Peters & Revnew to handle labor negotiations with newly unionized workers, prompting the beloved grocery store to dump its counsel. The Wedge's replacement law firm, Dorsey and Whitney, has "always been respectful to our folks," says union negotiator Jennifer Christensen.
"Now, the employer didn't respond to our proposals yet, but we remain hopeful that they will also look on these negotiations as an opportunity to improve things and make things fair and just and consistent," Christensen said. "And just better."
Workers at Co-op Partners Warehouse unionized to protest what they felt was a top-down management style and stagnant pay. Wages remain a central concern for the union, says Christensen.
Jennifer Christensen is handling negotiations for warehouse workers
"Wage scales and credit for experience and progression and things like that appear, at first glance, to be not real just, like there isn't a real system on who gets raises when and why it happens," Christensen said. "That's pretty typical in a non-union environment 'cause it's just a different structure."
UFCW wants to change that and hopes that the negotiations are "unique and beneficial" to both the co-op and its workers, according to Christensen.
Wedge board president Sarah Wovcha attended the first session and felt it was "very mutually respectful."
Wovcha notes that Christensen has a long track record negotiating with the Wedge's chosen attorney, Doug Christensen, and that they have "a good, friendly and professional rapport."
"I, too, am optimistic that negotiations are going to be very productive," Wovcha said.
For Wovcha, it's important that the store respect its workers' decision to organize, which she says is consistent with the cooperative movement's seven principles.
Those seven principles can be found here.
"We as the Wedge Board of Directors respect workers' autonomy and independence in making the choice about whether to organize themselves as a union," Wovcha said. "Cooperation amongst cooperatives means we cooperate with each other."
Respect for workers means respecting differences of opinion as well, she said.
"If there has been a difference of opinion to any extent, which obviously there has been if the workers chose to file an NLRB [National Labor Relations Board] decision, we need to be respectful of that decision, open to that decision, and cooperating with it," Wovcha said.
We'll keep following negotiations as they continue.
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