Northampton Grocery Workers Form Union

Workers at the food co-op in Northampton organized a union. The 85 workers at River Valley Market organized in February. The Valley Post is the first news outlet to cover the workers’ victory, said Gabriel Quaglia. 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 will soon negotiate 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. The workers decided to join the United Food and Commercial Workers union Local 1459 www.ufcw1459.com

The co-op has a web site at www.RiverValleyMarket.coop

One of the co-op workers who asked that their name be kept confidential told the Post 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 is set to open in Keene this year. A few years ago, workers at the Brattleboro food co-op tried to form a union. Management hired lawyers to fight the workers.

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.

More information about co-ops in the Valley, including details about the effort by Brattleboro food co-op workers to organize, 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

Comments

Thank you for this excellent

Thank you for this excellent reporting.

Elizabeth Parker
Northampton

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