Grocery Workers in Greenfield and Shelburne Falls Form a Union

About 75 workers at two grocery stores in Greenfield and nearby Shelburne Falls have formed a union. “Many of us haven’t had a raise in more than three years,” John Cevasco told the Valley Post. He’s been a stock clerk at Green Fields Market for more than 14 years. “If you don’t have a union, you can easily get fired. Having a union will give the staff more of a say in how the store is run,” he said.

On July 25, the board of directors of the Franklin Community Co-op, which owns Green Fields Market in Greenfield and McCusker’s Market in Shelburne Falls, voted to recognize the union, pending a review of the workers’ signatures on union membership cards by a neutral third party. The next step will be for the workers to elect a small group of workers to negotiate a union contract with the managers of the two stores.

Brenda Biddle works at McCusker’s Market. “The pay isn’t adequate,” she told the Valley Post. “The health plan costs a worker $1,200 a month for a family of four. Having a union contract will improve relations between supervisors and workers.”

Adam Grandin is a cook at Green Fields Market. He prepares food for the store’s deli. “I want a union because I need more job security,” he said. “It will give us more of a say in how the co-op is run.”

With a few exceptions, any employer in the USA can fire non-union workers at any time without giving a reason. Despite his concerns about this, Grandin, who is 40 and has had several jobs, said of his job at Green Fields Market, “This is the best job I’ve ever had. I love my job.”

When a worker has a union contract, their boss must show that the boss has “just cause” before they can fire the worker. Having a union allows workers to speak out when a boss is hostile.

The managers at Franklin Community Co-op didn’t respond to a request for comment for this article. They have a web site at www.GreenFieldsMarket.coop

The Valley Post is probably the first news outlet to cover the workers’ victory. The daily newspaper in Greenfield, the Recorder, had not covered it as of July 27, said Lisa Prolman. She’s the assistant director of the Greenfield Public Library. The Recorder’s web site had no coverage of the Green Fields Market on July 28 or July 29.

Union organizer Joel Nelson helped the workers organize. The workers decided to join Nelson’s union, which has a web site at www.ufcw1459.com

Workers at the food co-op in Northampton formed a union in February. An article about that is at:

www.ValleyPost.org/2012/04/18/northampton-grocery-workers-form-union

Workers at the food co-ops in the Vermont cities of Montpelier and Burlington also organized in recent years. In 2003, workers at the Brattleboro Food Co-op tried to organize but were discouraged by hostile lawyers hired by the co-op’s manager. A new food co-op is set to open in Keene this year.

All of the food co-ops mentioned in this article are run by boards of directors that are elected by the co-op’s customers. The customers get a discount at the stores, and the right to vote for the board, when they pay a membership fee. The Franklin co-op has about 2,100 members. The Northampton and Brattleboro co-ops are bigger than the two stores owned by the Franklin co-op.

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. 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 publishing our

Thank you for publishing our interviews. An overwhelming majority of staff signed the petition to join the union. About 30 percent of the staff have not had a raise in more than three years because we are at the top of the pay scale. In the past, the Co-op would revise the pay scale every two years and top-of-scale employees would get a one time raise. In summer of 2012, this revision did not occur. I was told by Patti Waters that the Co-op was unable to revise pay scale upwards last summer due to economy and our two stores had their first year without a profit.

John Cevasco
Green Fields Market worker

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