Unionization effort fails at Ashland Food Co-op

An effort to unionize the Ashland Food Co-op has failed.

The final tally was 75 votes against, 42 for unionization, said co-op General Manager Richard Katz.

Both the co-op and United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 555 will have a week to file any objections to the election, said an official with the National Labor Relations Board, which oversaw the election process.

If no objections are filed, the NLRB will certify the election results Sept. 4, Katz said.

"We are very pleased that we have finally had an election; most everybody is happy about that," Katz said. "At this point, we just want to be able to move on together, and keep making this workplace as good as it can be."

Employees entered secret-ballot votes in a designated "quiet room" at the co-op over the two-day voting process, which ended Friday.

About a dozen of the co-op's staff, whose status the union deemed managerial, were excluded from voting in the election. The votes of six other assistant managers would have been counted only had the final tally been within six votes.

Some of those six employees are assistant and shift managers within individual departments at the co-op, said Linda Davidson, the NLRB's Portland-based officer in charge.

"I am glad that it is over and that we can all refocus on coming together as a crew and doing our job," said Zack Karr, who has worked in the co-op deli for over a year.

Karr, 23, said the nonstop flow of business the co-op receives on a daily basis can make his workplace a stressful environment.

"When it gets so busy, it's a stressful place to work," he said. "This (the union dispute) was only adding stress."

The union filed its request with the NLRB to unionize the store in November, but it had been on hold because of an unfair labor practice charge the union filed against the co-op's management staff the same month.

An ensuing four-month NLRB investigation found merit in 13 of 16 allegations brought against the co-op, but the store's management staff maintains it violated no part of the National Labor Relations Act.

The union and co-op reached an informal settlement on March 29, ending the dispute and clearing the way for the recent election.

"There is definitely a feeling of relief around the store," Katz said.

United Food and Commercial Workers Union representative Anne Dietz, who was monitoring the Ashland case, did not return telephone messages left Friday afternoon.

Early Friday, before the votes were counted, Dietz said, "The election is going smoothly "… whatever the outcome, it's good that employees are getting this opportunity to decide."

Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.

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