Wedge Co-op warehouse employees unionize
In addition to the Wedge storefront on Lyndale Avenue, the Wedge runs a warehouse in St. Paul that's a supplier to many co-ops, grocery stores, and restaurants. The employees at Co-op Partners Warehouse recently held a union election that has been certified by the National Labor Relations Board. The workers are partnered with UFCW Local 1189.
Warehouse employee Silvester Guadiana says the workers were "galvanized" when the Wedge hired a "complete outsider" for a management position within the warehouse.
"People that are deserving and overdue for raises are getting stiffed, and they're hiring a guy at a much more desirable wage who is a complete outsider," Guadiana says. "They didn't give anyone the opportunity to compete for that job even though there are people more qualified than him that have been with the company and were passed over."
That new manager is Mark Fahning, who was hired to be the operations manager at the Wedge's warehouse last December, according to his LinkedIn page.
"Basically they just hired the guy, introduced us to him the day he started," Guadiana says. "'This guy's the new boss.'"
Another warehouse employee, who did not want to be named, called the move a "slap in the face" and said employees organized for the purpose of "getting a little bit more democracy back into the co-op."
No bargaining sessions have been held yet, UFCW 1189 organizer Curtis Neff says, but the union has requested dates from the Wedge for bargaining. Neff says he doesn't want to be "negative."
Although the workers are upset over wages and Fahning's hire, Guadiana also wants it known that the employees care about the Wedge.
"Our intentions are only pro-Wedge," Guadiana says. "Nobody that works here comes in just to get a paycheck."
Mark Fahning could not be reached for comment.
Wedge spokeswoman Elizabeth Archerd says the store is "totally respectful" of the workers' right to unionize.
"We're a co-op," Archerd says. "We're a democratic organization that was formed by people that came together, so we're totally respectful."
Archerd says she doesn't know why the employees unionized but that the Wedge has "always been a good workplace" with fair wages and benefits. She confirms that negotiations haven't started yet.
When they do, Archerd says, "we are going to work through this in the cooperative spirit."