Vermont Press Releases

UE Local 255: Co-op management blocks direct negotiations

News Release — UE Local 255
Aug. 8, 2017

Emma Paradis
UE Local 255
Negotiating Committee Member

Union contract negotiations with Hunger Mountain Co-op came to a standstill in late June when Management stated their refusal to continue bargaining without the presence of a mediator. Prior to this, at every negotiating session, the Union and Management engaged in productive dialogue and made significant progress at each session. As of now, wages, free speech language, the awarding of jobs, union activities, as well as a health care premium, remain on the table. The Union’s Negotiating Committee is elected by and made up of Hunger Co-op Mountain Employees. As such, we are more than disappointed that Management has halted progress while continuing to state they would like to improve labor relations. Often a Union contract mediation process has the two parties in separate rooms with a mediator bringing messages back and forth, this is certainly not a process that has both parties bargaining and communicating directly. Our Union committee has asked that negotiations remain on site and in the same room if the mediator must be present, keeping the process open and transparent to our fellow Union members. We feel this also addresses Management’s stated attempt to improve our labor relations.

The Union’s negotiating committee can conceive of room for movement, as implied under the conditions of negotiations. Management has stated they do have room for movement, but would no longer negotiate directly with the Union committee without the presence of a federal mediator. The bargaining committee is seeking a tangible raise across the board, in addition to the maintenance of our premium-free, high deductible – partially HRA funded MVP health care plan for full-time employees. We are all members of this community, and most of us are member-owners of the Co-op. We all put forth our best to ensure that we continue to thrive, and the Co-op’s continued financial success is a testament to our labors.

The Employees of Hunger Mountain Co-op are seeking a raise that reflects the labor we put into our community owned organization, and the ever rising cost of living. The success of the business is reliant on the labor of its employees. As employees we are not a burden to the business, instead, we are the energy that powers it. It is our labor that makes the products available, from those making buying decisions, to the receivers who check orders in, the stockers, clerks, and cooks who get products to the shelves, to the cashiers who ring up groceries at the register. As HMC employees, as well as community members, we have a shared interest in upholding the principles and values of sustainability and transparency that can be gained through true Co-op democracy. Even within the competitive natural foods industry, it is important that Hunger Mountain Co-op continues to set a high standard by ensuring that our jobs in the food chain remain a source of viable livelihood.

As a negotiating committee we have been elected to represent the interests of our coworkers. It is our hope that the bargaining process continues with both parties at the table working together to resolve the remaining issues. It is the goal of our committee to reach a mutually agreed upon tentative agreement worthy of ratification by our coworkers.

“The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.”
– Cesar Chavez

UE 255 Negotiating Committee
Amelia Salata-Hartman
Autumn Martinez
Ellie Bayer
Elizabeth Jesdale
Emma Paradis
Justin Stender
Tim Mosher

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