Bloomingfoods Market and Deli Cooperative held its annual meeting of the membership last week. The General Manager and Board president both addressed the crowd of more than 300 attendees, focusing their summaries on the recent efforts of Bloomingfoods workers to join a union. There were also break out discussions focused on the unionization efforts, management/employee relations, and board communications. WFHB correspondent David Murphy attended the meeting, and spoke with Bloomingfoods President Tim Clougher. Their discussion, here, in today’s community report.
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Workers at Bloomingfoods are holding a rally today in support of efforts to unionize. Dakota Walker, a Bloomingfoods employee and an active participant in the union organizing drive talks about the purpose of the rally.
Walker said that the rally is about employee empowerment- it’s an effort to make our community stronger. The goal is to enable and protect the rights of the working class of the Bloomingfoods co-op. The Bloomingfoods workers realize that the rally is important in deciding their fate.
The rally is scheduled to begin at the Monroe County Courthouse Square at 5 p.m. and proceed to Bloomingfoods’ near westside store at 316 West Sixth. Participants will then march to Bloomingfoods’ administration offices at 117 South Gentry Street where they will deliver their message to the Board who are scheduled to meet at 6pm.
Walker explained, “There has not been a neutral stance from Bloomingfoods, and now they publicly say that they have been neutral and haven’t caused any trouble when they have.” He said that the rally is an attempt to get Bloomingfoods to step forward and admit to what they have done.
Bloomingfoods administration released their first statement regarding the effort yesterday, stating that the co-operative, fully respects and supports staff’s legal right to organize. It also reads, “Throughout this process, we have been respectful and cooperative—meeting with union representation on a regular basis and refraining from any public comment until we were able to assimilate what we learned from others.” Walker then talks about the current stage of union organizing.
Walker said, “They have not called for a vote yet. It has been going very well, it’s been amazing signing people up who are interested in their rights and exercising their rights. Right now there are a large percentage of people involved, and there will remain a lot of involvement. There’s no fear of not enough people, that’s for sure.”
The organizers must get forty percent of line employees to sign union membership cards before going to the National Labor Relations board to ask for a formal vote by the employees. If fifty percent vote in favor, the Board will then certify the workers bargaining unit and the employer will then be approached to open negotiations for a first collective agreement.
Bloomingfoods employees are hoping and expecting their managers to remain neutral during the effort to organize into a union. Last week, the Daily Local News reported on indications that workers at the retail grocery co-operative were trying to unionize. During that report we conveyed some parts of our conversation with Cindy Beaux -lay, a former employee of Bloomingfoods, about working conditions and labor-management relations at the organization. She mentioned that there had been two prior unsuccessful attempts by employees to organize and that she was not surprised that another effort is now underway. Yesterday, we spoke to, Kaisa Goodman, a member of the worker organizing committee who confirmed that she and others had scheduled a meeting later in the day with Scott Bardette, an organizer with Local 700 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. Bardette confirmed by phone this morning that he had met with some of the workers and was meeting again today with others. He then went on to talk about the position that the owner-members and the management would take during the union drive…
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A group of Indiana University Students have been meeting in the Indiana University Memorial Union every Monday evening for more than a year.
The group is a crucial component in bringing attention to IU employment practices, tuition increases, and the current lack of minority representation on campus.
The assembly in collaboration with WFHB, brings weekly updates of the work to inform our listeners of the practices of IU administration, and the work being done to address labor issues on campus and in our community.
This is…The Strike Mic.
Tune in to the Daily Local News every Tuesday for a new edition of The Strike Mic, a weekly update from your friends and neighbors working to strengthen the voice of IU students and staff.
Local management and labor at the Bloomington GE Appliance plant are currently working out how the elimination of 160 production jobs will be handled.
On September 9, management announced that approximately 35 percent of the job shedding will be through early retirement provisions and the rest, around 100, will be laid off.
Since then, workers at the plant held rallies demanding there be no layoffs, and instead that GE cut its workforce only through early retirement and natural attrition.
WFHB requested interviews with GE, and instead received written statements reiterating what was already said.
We were able to speak to Carven Thomas, president of Bloomington Local 2249 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents the production workers at the local GE facility.
He talked about his local’s suggestion to management on the Special Early Retirement Option, and other means to avoid layoffs.
“We have a lot of folks in our building that are eligible to retire,” Thomas says, “If the company allowed a voluntary early retirement option for our 60-year-olds, only 30 workers would have to be laid off.”
The early retirement option would apply to any worker 55 years or older with 25 years of service at GE.
The union suggestion is designed not only to lessen the financial penalty of layoffs, but to allow older workers to retire early and keep younger workers on the job and the payroll.
Thomas told us that management said the cost of their suggestion was prohibitive.
“They’re saying it would cost $340,000 for each person to retire,” Thomas says.
Nevertheless, the union-management meetings have produced some increase in the number of employees who will be shed through early retirement packages.
“There won’t be as many as we would like, and we’re still in the process of negotiating more early retirements,” Thomas says.
GE management has been meeting with the union every day, and Thomas says he hopes they will continue until the union gets a good enough offer for a decision to be made.