Wedge Co-op reaches agreement with warehouse workers
Wedge employees get more money and new work boots
The Wedge Co-op reached an agreement yesterday on a three-year contract with its warehouse workers, who unionized this spring in a labor dispute.
Warehouse employees at the Wedge organized through UFCW 1189 due to concerns about stagnant wages and a top-down management style. Union leader Bernie Hesse says he's pleased with the workers' newly negotiated contract.
See also: Wedge Co-op warehouse employees unionize Wedge Co-op hires 'anti-union' law firm for labor negotiations Wedge Co-op dumps 'anti-union' law firm: 'We made a mistake' The Wedge Co-op hopes for new beginning
"I think this is something to build on," Hesse says. "I think this gives us and the workers there some energy to organize at some other co-ops, some other food processing [plants] and warehouses."
Under the terms of the new contract, workers at the Wedge warehouse will receive a $1.50 an hour raise over the next three years. It also guarantees their current health care benefits and provides for employee education training (up to $500 reimbursement for professional development classes) and other allowances, like $75 each year to purchase work boots.
Negotiations began under a cloud of controversy in April. As City Pages reported at the time, the iconic co-op hired an "anti-union" law firm to represent the store's management in negotiations. After an outcry from store members, the Wedge dumped its choice of counsel.
Hesse gives credit to Wedge members for the ensuring fruitful negotiations between workers and management. He says Wedge members expressed steady support on behalf of the workers. But Hesse also praises management for listening at the bargaining table.
"I give them credit for being responsible and bargaining," Hesse says.
Wedge board president Sarah Wovcha tells us she is happy with the new contract and the "positive tone" of negotiations.
"I'm glad we found something mutually agreeable," Wovcha says.
"The negotiations went really well," Wovcha added. "Throughout the process it was really important to the board to be respectful of the employees' wishes."
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