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Co-op employees approve union by a 74-45 vote

BRATTLEBORO—Employees at the Brattleboro Food Co-op voted on Nov. 14 to be represented by Local 1459 of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).

The tally was 74-45 in favor of the union, with seven challenged votes. Of the Co-op’s 160 workers, 140 were eligible to say yes or no to joining Local 1459, and 126 cast ballots.

The election was supervised by the National Labor Relations Board, as well as by representatives of the Co-op and Local 1459, which is based in Springfield, Mass.

The vote came after Co-op General Manager Alex Gyori and the Board of Directors declined a request last month from employee organizers to voluntarily recognize the union.

“Time now to take a deep breath and figure out what we do next,” said Hannah Aleshnick, a Co-op employee and member of the Co-op Union Organizing Committee. “It could’ve been done a different way, but it is clear what the staff wanted.”

Aleshnick said that while the atmosphere was “tense” in the weeks leading up to the vote, both sides had ample opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of joining a union.

On Sept. 10, the Union Organizing Committee presented a petition to the Co-op board signed by a majority of the workers who supported unionization.

After the board rejected the committee’s initial request, it referred the matter to Gyori, saying it was a staffing issue and under Gyori’s purview.

The Co-op board also rejected an online petition signed by more than 500 community members urging the Co-op to voluntarily recognize the union.

The board’s and Gyori’s stance over the past few weeks has been for giving every worker an opportunity to vote on the matter.

In a written statement handed out Wednesday night after the result of the vote was released, Gyori said that “we have always maintained that the workers should decide among themselves, in a fair and democratic process, whether or not to form a union. It is our sincere hope that we can move forward in a positive manner and continue to make our new store the best it can possibly be.”

Both sides will have up to one year to negotiate a contract. Aleshnick said she hopes that the process can begin as soon as possible.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #179 (Wednesday, November 21, 2012).

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