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Latest News - December 2011

December 27, 2011
Co-op awaits outcome of labor investigation
By: Sam Wheeler

NLRB process is taking longer than the usual two months

ASHLAND — The Ashland Food Co-op continues to be investigated over an unfair labor practices complaint filed against its management by a union in mid-November, and an election to unionize the grocery store is set to take place once the investigation concludes.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which some employees have been trying to join since last April, filed the charges with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of the pro-union workers at the co-op.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union's complaint against the Ashland Food Co-op alleges the co-op's mangement:

Recognized, imposed, dominated or otherwise supported a labor organization through the creation, recognition and maintenance of a "Staff Council."

  • Told employees that the Staff Council is their union, or is a de facto union.
  • Solicited employee grievances in response to an organizing campaign.
  • Remedied employee grievances to discourage employee support for the union.
  • Granted benefits to employees to discourage employee support for the union.
  • Instituted an open-door policy in response to an organizing campaign.
  • Engaged in polling, surveillance and/or interrogation by conducting a meeting in which employees were directed to share their grievances and sentiments about the union organizing.
  • Promulgated and maintained a rule prohibiting union-related conversations in work areas while allowing other non-work-related conversations.
  • Prohibited pro-union activity by employees at work while permitting anti-union activity.
  • Interrogated employees about their union support, sentiments and/or activities.
  • Made coercive statements to employees about the union.
  • Made intimidating statements to employees about the union.
  • Made implied statements to employees that more severe discipline would be imposed if the union becomes the representative of employees.
  • Circulated an anti-union petition and/or solicited employee signatures on an anti-union petition.
  • Filed notice of a legal claim to remove, or otherwise caused the removal of, a lawful recording of a public meeting of the employer concerning protected activity.
  • Threatened criminal action against an employee who had a link on her Facebook page to a pro-union website containing the recording.

The investigation is behind its initial two-month completion schedule, said a NLRB representative, but he could not provide an expected date for it to conclude.

"We do have internal timelines that we try our best to meet, but we don't always," said Jim Kobe, assistant to the regional director at the Seattle NLRB office. "The investigation is still ongoing."

The initial complaint was filed Oct. 11, and more charges were added in a second unfair labor practices complaint filed by the UFCW. The first complaint has since been dropped.

Until the investigation concludes, the co-op will have to wait for a determination on the legitimacy of the 16 charges in the complaint.

"I'm sure there are things moving behind the scenes that we are not aware about," said Annie Hoy, outreach manager for the Co-op. "We haven't heard anything back yet, so right now it's just wait and see."

Anne Dietz, a UFCW representative, said the union filed the complaint after it received reports of Co-op managers monitoring pro-union employees' Facebook pages, pulling employees aside to question them about their commitment to the union and asking them to sign an anti-union petition.

Kobe said after the investigation determines the merit or nonmerit of the charges, the union will be asked to withdraw the nonmerit charges, and the co-op will be asked to reach a settlement for each charge with merit.

Pro-union employees at the co-op filed a petition with the NLRB to hold a union election on Nov. 2, but that won't happen until the investigation into the complaints is settled.

"We're just waiting on some kind of movement from the NLRB, before we can move forward," said Hoy.



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