Workers, Northampton Food Co-op Settle First Contract

About 85 workers at the food co-op in Northampton organized a union last year. Recently they signed their first union contract with the manager of the River Valley Market. That's according to John Cevasco, a long-time employee of the food co-op in nearby Greenfield and member of the same union that the Northampton co-op workers joined. The union has a web site: www.ufcw1459.com. The Valley Post will request interviews with workers at the Northampton store via the union, and will update this article if and when the interviews happen. (The updates will be posted in the comments section, below the article.)

The 85 or so workers at River Valley Market organized in February 2012. The Valley Post was the first news outlet to cover the workers’ victory, said Gabriel Quaglia at the time. He's a cook at the co-op. He prepares food for the store’s café and take-out and catering departments. “It wasn’t hard to get our co-workers to organize,” Quaglia told the Post. He is one of seven workers who negotiated the workers’ first union contract.

Union contacts are negotiated by a small group of workers who are elected by their co-workers. A union contract doesn't take effect until a majority of workers vote to approve it.

One of the co-op workers who asked that their name be kept confidential told the Post last year that the main reason that workers at the Northampton co-op wanted a union was for job security and more justice in discipline decisions. “Wages and benefits have always been good at the Market,” the worker said.

A new food co-op opened last year in Keene. The 160 or so workers at the Brattleboro Food Co-op are members of the same union as the Greenfield and Northampton food co-op workers. Workers at the food co-ops in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, near Greenfield and in the Vermont cities of Montpelier and Burlington are also union members. The Brattleboro, Greenfield and Shelburne Falls workers are all in the process of negotiating their first union contracts with management, Cevasco said on September 10, 2013.

In recent decades, the richest Americans have gotten richer, while the middle class has gotten smaller and the ranks of the poor have swelled. Union workers in the U.S. make about 29 percent more money than non-union workers. That’s around $9,300 a year extra for the average worker who joins a union. For Latino workers, the union advantage is about 50 percent; for black workers, approximately 31 percent. This data is from www.bls.gov.

Unions give workers a voice in their workplace, and allow them to stand up for themselves if their bosses are hostile. Millions of workers in the U.S. are union members, including workers at Stop and Shop and UPS. (The other supermarkets in the Valley are non-union.)

More information about co-ops in the Valley, including details about an anti-union campaign by the manager and board of the Brattleboro Food Co-op, is at:

www.ValleyPost.org/2009/03/27/local-food-co-ops-hear-activists

More information about unions in the Valley is at:

www.ValleyPost.org/node/134

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