Co-op awaits outcome of labor investigation

ASHLAND — The Ashland Food Co-op continues to be investigated over an unfair labor practices complaint filed against its management by a union in mid-November, and an election to unionize the grocery store is set to take place once the investigation concludes.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which some employees have been trying to join since last April, filed the charges with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of the pro-union workers at the co-op.

The investigation is behind its initial two-month completion schedule, said a NLRB representative, but he could not provide an expected date for it to conclude.

"We do have internal timelines that we try our best to meet, but we don't always," said Jim Kobe, assistant to the regional director at the Seattle NLRB office. "The investigation is still ongoing."

The initial complaint was filed Oct. 11, and more charges were added in a second unfair labor practices complaint filed by the UFCW. The first complaint has since been dropped.

Until the investigation concludes, the co-op will have to wait for a determination on the legitimacy of the 16 charges in the complaint.

"I'm sure there are things moving behind the scenes that we are not aware about," said Annie Hoy, outreach manager for the Co-op. "We haven't heard anything back yet, so right now it's just wait and see."

Anne Dietz, a UFCW representative, said the union filed the complaint after it received reports of Co-op managers monitoring pro-union employees' Facebook pages, pulling employees aside to question them about their commitment to the union and asking them to sign an anti-union petition.

Kobe said after the investigation determines the merit or nonmerit of the charges, the union will be asked to withdraw the nonmerit charges, and the co-op will be asked to reach a settlement for each charge with merit.

Pro-union employees at the co-op filed a petition with the NLRB to hold a union election on Nov. 2, but that won't happen until the investigation into the complaints is settled.

"We're just waiting on some kind of movement from the NLRB, before we can move forward," said Hoy.

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email

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