Workers at the Lebanon Co-op Food Store have overwhelmingly rejected a bid to unionize.
The proposal to join the Springfield, Mass. local of United Food and Commercial Workers was shut down in a 70-31 vote Monday. Twelve other ballots at the Lebanon store were contested, but were not enough to change the result.
Monday's vote caps a year of tension between staff and management.
Secret ballots were marked in the conference room of the Lebanon store, the only one of three locations operated by the Hanover Cooperative Society to hold a union vote. Caren Giaccone, who works in the deli and prepared foods section, has been a leader in the campaign to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1459.
“We have to be heard as employees, which really is not happening now,” she said.
Giaconne says she was fired by the co-op last month after a testy meeting with supervisors. The co-op says she resigned; she was later re-instated. She says a union will prevent arbitrary treatment of employees and give them more power to negotiate wages and benefits.
But a staffer in the floral department, Cindy Balzotti, vehemently disagrees.
“I’m not saying that I am against unions where unions are needed. I don’t feel like in this particular co-op a union is needed,” Balzotti said.
Balzotti says the Lebanon Coop already offers adequate wages and good benefits, including merit pay for high performing workers. She feels she has the ear of her supervisor whenever she needs it.
But Joel Nelson, an organizer with the UFCW, says other employees are much less satisfied about the way their bosses treat them.
“Over the past several years here management has affected benefits and working conditions in a way that benefit the co-op and the bottom line and not necessarily the workers,” Nelson said.
Nelson led a successful union drive at the Brattleboro Co-op.
Allan Reetz, spokesman for the Hanover Cooperative Society, says employees in Lebanon have a right to make this decision on their own, and that management has not taken a stand either way.
“And I think if it’s yes or no, we want to make sure there’s a healing process here,” Reetz said.
Whatever the result, Reetz acknowledges hard work will be necessary to bring management and workers closer together at the Lebanon store.
Update 8:45 p.m. Workers rejected the union 70-31. This post has been updated to include details about the outcome of the vote.