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Park Slope Food Coop employees accuse management of meddling in union efforts

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Labor leaders are accusing management at the Park Slope Food Co-op of violating employees’ efforts to unionize by refusing to sign a “neutrality pledge,” despite a recent settlement with federal labor authorities.

“They’re not just squashing the unionization efforts. They’re intimidating workers,” said labor organizer Chelsea Connor. “They’ve taken retaliatory measures against employees.”

Workers are demanding management at Park Slope’s unique brand of food-based communism sign a “neutrality pledge” committing the store to refrain from taking any action that would stymie their effort to organize, which has so far been plagued by accusations of union busting on the part of the market’s granola-munching leadership.

“Companies aren’t allowed to retaliate against unionization efforts, but many of them do — as is the case with the Food Co-op — because labor laws aren’t strong enough,” said Connor. “So, neutrality agreements offer an added layer of protection to workers while they’re going through the unionization process.”

The Union Street grocery store between Sixth and Seventh avenues employs 72 full-time paid staffers, who work hand-in-hand with co-op members that contribute two hours and 45 minutes of labor per month in exchange for the right to purchase cheap, organic produce and use the supermarket as a platform to advocate for international issues.

The paid staffers’ effort to unionize gained headlines in April, when the New York Post reported on several veiled threats that co-op managers allegedly aimed at workers, including one store head who told staffers they “should have a backup plan” if their collective bargaining scheme petered out.

The Nation Labor Relations Board — the federal body that governs labor laws in the United States — ordered managers not to meddle in the unionization process amid a settlement earlier this month, which required the co-op to post fliers detailing their rights to organize.

But even with federal watchdogs breathing down their neck, co-op management still haven’t warmed to the unionization effort, according to Connor, who said that whatever passes for ownership at the leftist supermarket remains obstinately opposed to the neutrality pact.

“We asked them for a neutrality agreement, and they wouldn’t even sit down with us to talk about it,” she said. “They haven’t even come to the table to discuss it.”

The recent settlement bars Connor from speaking openly about certain aspects of the co-op’s secretive inner workings, but she was able to describe how employers use various tactics to cow perspective union members — such as threatening them with termination, writing them up for disciplinary actions, and reassigning them to arduous tasks as punishment.

Co-op workers declined to be interviewed publicly for fear of retaliation, but their website details the complaints that have led them to advocate for collective bargaining power.

One of the major sticking points is their status as “at-will employees” who can be terminated at any time, without proper cause. They also complain of overwork, inconsistent scheduling, and inadequate workplace safety standards.

Co-op members have supported the market’s full-time staffers through an online petition that has garnered 3,300 signatures, and union advocates hope the recent settlement and added attention will lead additional shoppers to intervene on their behalf.

One petition author said she hopes members’ grassroots advocacy will force management to engage in good-faith discussions.

“The management... said that the members don’t have anything to do with this. We are pushing back against that,” said HanaKyle Moranz. “We have an investment — a literal investment, and an investment of our labor.”

Moranz — who has been a co-op member for around 13 years — believes managers were obfuscating calls to stay neutral.

“They’re definitely not addressing any individual members directly,” she said. “Management has said they recognize the right to organize, and that they’re taking a neutral stance — but unfortunately, that has not been the experience of the staff.”

Co-op management did not respond to requests for comment.

Reach reporter Aidan Graham at agraham@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–4577. Follow him at twitter.com/aidangraham95.
Updated 2:03 pm, August 27, 2019
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Reasonable discourse

Freesia from Park Slope says:
This is why I would never shop at the corporate controlled store in this story. Not to feel superior, but I just couldn’t be part of their capitalist machine. I really wish I could be relaxed like the shoppers who just go here with no guilt about the system they’re promoting - but I just feel too much moral guilt. That’s my flaw I guess ?
Aug. 27, 2019, 8:29 am
rensen leskat from Clinton hill says:
I am not surprised about this situation, being that the Coop and the other food coops in the city with the same model food coop structure are a breeding ground for anti-semetisim or anti-israeli politics in regards to the boycott with divestment or BDS. It is hippocracy.
Aug. 27, 2019, 9:06 am
SCR from Realityville says:
So what does Freesia do? Grow his/her own fruits and vegetables? Raise her/his own chickens in Park Slope? Only do,even every day shopping,in the smallest shops? Besides,Freesia,needing lots of extra bucks,to afford that;small shops have been known-to sometime NOT pay their employees,at all. Especially those with quaint sounding names. I know BS,when it's shelved. Fact,the food store(grocery) industry,is hardly a monopoly?
Aug. 27, 2019, 9:21 am
Hillary from Prison says:
Even Park Slope liberals realize how destructive unions are to our country. This is why we need federal right to work laws ASAP.
Aug. 27, 2019, 9:35 am
SCR from Realityville says:
Here is the reality. Union or NOT,the"72 full-time"Co-op employees should be earning,at least $15.00 per-hour. This is currently the legal minimum-wage,for all NYC businesses;that have 11-or more employees.
Aug. 27, 2019, 10:52 am
Tyler from pps says:
If there are workplace safety concerns, the workers should report it to OSHA. They will inspect and require the store to remedy the situation. Not sure what "overwork" is, but if they are not being paid for work time, the city and state take that very seriously. Unionizing would potentially help the issues of inconsistent scheduling and a lack of due process.
Aug. 27, 2019, 11:34 am
K. from ArKady says:
Aiden: "Unique brand of food based Communism". OK, I'll admit, that made me chuckle, but they're hardly unique. Agrarian Communism is older even than it's most popular proponent, Jesus of Nazareth.
Aug. 27, 2019, 12:16 pm
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
You mean there's something amiss in that permanent cluster fucck over there? Oh my stars...
Aug. 27, 2019, 12:17 pm
Hillary from Prison says:
Check out the liberal racist projecting its bigotry under other user names. It fools no one.
Aug. 27, 2019, 2:03 pm
Leif Ericsson 33 says:
Unions are not destructive to the country. That is a fanatic right wing view. Unions in fact work very well in protecting workers in other countries, where they have not been infiltrated by mafias and half blind corporate shills. Another social security if you will.
Aug. 27, 2019, 3:07 pm
t from bath beach says:
Nothing new to report in this story. Communists are generally anti union and anti semites and both situations apply at the coop
Aug. 27, 2019, 3:09 pm
Hillary from Prison says:
But trump says unions bad and he's my idol!
Aug. 27, 2019, 3:23 pm
wiseowl from mid brooklyn says:
Member of Food Coop for eight years and union member from 1998 to 2007. Still active as volunteer with union. Sure there are downsides to both parties but are the claims accurate. Also how many trolls here speak from first hand knowledge or experience? I survived many rounds of downsizing in the workplace with the union support enabling me to retire shortly later. I also advocated for the union in its entry to our representation. So how well founded are the disgrunteled grievances? Or are they stooges seeking to undermine the paragon of the Food Coop paradigm for malicious purposes? Speculate and spout your ignorant conjectures for the sake of sharing your Fascist opinions.
Aug. 27, 2019, 4:53 pm
Person from Prospect Heights says:
I am one of the staff full-time staff members at the Food Coop. This story could not be more full of untruths. Only about 12 of the staff actually want to unionize. Also, We earn almost double minimum wage. The pro-union staff members have been lying and making false accusations since the beginning.
Aug. 27, 2019, 9:06 pm
Person from Bayridge says:
I've been a PSFC member for a long time now. It's a good shop. I can tell, because I have worked in union and non-union shops, both as as a union member and as management in a union shop. Several members of my family worked as police officers, firefighters, postal workers, public library staff... pretty conservative folks. Since I joined the PSFC a number of my fellow co-op members have become co-op staff members and they seem happy working there, although it's stressful like any busy workplace would be. They are paid much more than minimum wage and have a good benefit package. The food available at the PSFC is fresh. That's why we're all here: good food. Leftist? Communist? Really?!? Such language sounds very, very odd, anachronistic even.
Aug. 27, 2019, 10:14 pm
Bob from Park Slope says:
This article demonstrates a really skewed understanding of neutrality agreements. The union organizers are, in fact, asking the leadership of the stores to give up their right to share their perspective with employees on how unionization could affect the store, customers and employees. Not agreeing to neutrality does not mean that the store's leaders are trying to interfere with anyone's protected right to organize. They are just maintaining their right to ensure that employee get facts and perspective from both sides.
Aug. 28, 2019, 9:54 am
Hillary from Prison says:
Down with the black and brown people! Trump2020
Aug. 29, 2019, 10:14 am

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