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or the past few weeks, Carpenters Local Union #46 (CLU #46) has targeted the Co-op in their effort to force West Fork Construction (the General Contractor that the developer of our proposed relocation project has chosen to work with) to unionize. CLU #46 has been on the sidewalk adjacent to the store with large signs and a huge statue of the Grim Reaper while handing out leaflets that claim that the Co-op is “Hurting Workers, Hurting Families, Hurting Community”. CLU#46 expects the Co-op to require “West Fork or their sub-contractors to pay the area standard wages & benefits and to require apprenticeship and journeyman upgrade training on carpenter crafts on all their jobs.” This tactic — pressuring a third party and framing the issues around “area standard wages and benefits”— is a familiar one that the union often uses in its attempts to get contractors to unionize.

IGNORING SOME IMPORTANT FACTS

  1. As of this date our proposed relocation is just that, i.e. proposed. We have not signed a lease or any contracts with a General Contractor. CLU #46 is well aware of these facts but seems to want to disregard them in order to attempt to tarnish the Co-op’s reputation as a means to the end of promoting its agenda.
  2. The project’s developer, in working with us to assess the project’s feasibility, chose a GC that he has worked with on many other projects (some using union labor) to give him estimates of the costs of constructing the store and the adjacent parking garage. Given that the properties will be owned by the developer and leased to the Co-op, we did not have the ability to choose the GC.
  3. The chosen GC has in fact used Local #46 members on other projects and will in fact solicit bids from them on this project if and when the decision is made to go forward.
  4. The Co-op has no authority to dictate the selection of the GC, much less the nature of the GC’s relationship with the Carpenters Union or any other union. The developer is the entity with the right of control over the selection of the GC for the build-out of our store.
  5. Even if we could somehow exercise some influence over such determinations, we feel it would be contrary to the federal labor laws to try to impose on any contractor’s employees the obligation to be union. The National Labor Relations Act (29 US Code section 157) guarantees to employees the right to form, join and assist unions, and also states that employees “have the right to refrain from any or all such activities.” Therefore, if we were to try to act in such a way as to compel a contractor’s employees to join a union, we would be violating the fundamental federal labor policy of employee freedom of choice.
  6. The Co-op’s employees are represented by Teamsters Local 150 (TL 150), with whom we have an excellent working relationship. Therefore we have a long history of working with and supporting unions.
  7. TL 150 has spoken with CLU #46 and expressed their disappointment that the latter is targeting a union employer to further their aims. TL 150 believes that CLU #46 is out of line in the way that they are conducting their campaign.

The answer to CLU #46’s issue is not to compel employee support of the Carpenters Union, but to be sure that employees are free to make their own choice without interference by an outsider like the Co-op. The Carpenters Union is free to seek to organize the employees of any GC selected by the developer, but it will ultimately come down to the free choice exercised by the employees, not top-down coercion by an unrelated third party like the Co-op which will dictate the result.

The Co-op has no stated policy that requires the hundreds of growers, manufacturers, distributors, service vendors, financial institutions etc. that it deals with to unionize. If this were the case we would have cut off dealings with more than 90% of the cooperatives in the country as few of them are (like us) unionized. While there are certainly cases in which non-organized workers are exploited by employers, it is inaccurate to assume that every open-shop employer is guilty of those practices. We do not want to be using a GC or subs that are exploiting their workers and we will make this clear to the GC if we move forward. If we became aware that a business we deal with is in fact abusing or exploiting its employees we would address that particular situation. The proposed relocation, unlike many projects that are required to use union labor, will not be subsidized by any public funds. Therefore we are under no obligation to obey any demands from CLU# 46 or to submit to their intimidation.

Paul Cultera,
General Manager

 

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