Wedge Co-op warehouse employees unionize

thewedge.jpg
The Wedge Co-op's warehouse workers are now unionized
Employees of the Wedge's Co-op Partners Warehouse have formed a union to voice their dissatisfaction with wages and management decisions.

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.'"

curtisneff.jpg
Curtis Neff: An organizer with UFCW Local 1189

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."





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47 comments
A_Daniel
A_Daniel

The union has dissatisfies for management  decision . The works with the low wages . people are more deserving and qualified more wages.The worker always want a good waves and Benefits. unfortunately any accident happened in super market. You claim for supermarket work injury compensation and fulfill the damage physically or mentally. supermarket employee compensation

Guest
Guest

I am also an ex-employee of The Wedge. I can confirm that management is as bad as management anywhere, maybe even worse than Wild Oats/Whole Foods (which I have also worked at). I saw employees berated for minor infractions, accused of wasting time, being generally disregarded etc. Management is basically a bunch of yuppie-white-collar types who want to put on a good show for the people who shop there. There is nothing about the place that is challenging corporate or hierarchical values at all these days. Yes, many of the products carried are great. Yes, many of the TC coops have gotten so large and been around so long that they have morphed into corporate-coop hybrids, but I truly think the Wedge is one of the worst. I really hope members rise up against the recent decision to hire a right-wing union busting law firm to represent management and force the current management out and bring back some actual transparency. Unlikely though, people just want a place to buy their smoothies and congratulate themselves for buying out of the bulk bins rather than packaged goods.

George
George

On the other paw, if a 'socially-aware' business like The Wedge has done their evaluation, done the maths, and found that unionization is detrimental to the conduct of business and the future of the co-op, isn't it the fiduciary responsibility of the Board and Membership to do what is necessary to resist and move the union out by whatever means is necessary?

Another Wedge member
Another Wedge member

I'm a Wedge member and employee.  I think the Wedge should embrace this and make the most of it.  Why not genuinely work with the employees to resolve these problems, since in theory everyone wants what's best for the co-op? What good will it do for management to dig in their heels and take an adversarial approach? Why not, instead, go with it -- this is the will of the employees -- let's sit down at the table and work it out together? And then, if they're really smart, play it up to the press and the membership and reap the PR benefits of being -- in stark contrast to Whole Foods, Target, and Wal-mart -- a union-friendly workplace? Such an approach could go a long way in mending the Wedge's damaged reputation in town and its damaged relationship with its own staff.  And it's the right thing to do.  

Sator Rotas
Sator Rotas

'Scuse me if l've walked into the wrong party. I thought you all might be celebrating your newly won victory to become unionized and instead find a Wedge bash & major gripe session. I guess the work of creating an Anarcho-syndicalist Workers Utopia is never done. Little I've read here shows potential for you to rise in your selected workplace/career or effect a change for the better from within the organization. If you don't like what you're doing or where you're doing it or who you're doing it for, do something else. Go someplace else. This unasked for advice applies to wherever you find yourself in whatever vocational, corporate or garage band realm you've chosen. I'm willing to wager, if you don't find happiness where you are, you won't find it elsewhere until you look within yourself. Please forgive my upset with your whinging. There's little evidence in your comments of an understanding of the connection between the business you create, the profits you make and the pay & benefits you receive. Are workers in unionized conventional grocery stores better off than Wedge workers? Show us the data and the real-life testimonials. The Wedge is formed around the 7 cooperative principles (see: http://www.wedge.coop/whats-co... How does the current Wedge violate those principles? Or tell us all how the membership will be better served if you have run of the business. Do you mean to tell me that workers have no avenues to express their grievances? Or that workers have not effected change at the Wedge? Do you mean to say that no workers are receiving pay bumps or promotions? Or that all workers should have their pay raised no matter what their merit or contribution to the effective operation of the organization?

I've enjoyed shopping at the Wedge. I like its atmosphere and its attentiveness to customer concerns. I've very much appreciated the people who work there, who, despite whatever personal & political intrigues they may carry, are almost always pleasant, informative & helpful, or, at least, manage to seem that way.

The Wedge was formed in 1974 as an alternative to a then status quo. What's to keep those of you who find no redress for your demands within your current situation from forming your own successful, alternative business, organized around your own convictions, capabilities, dreams... and what have you...?

But hey, you won. Party on.

Sator Rotas
Sator Rotas

'Scuse me if l've walked into the wrong party. I thought you all might be celebrating your newly won victory to become unionized and instead find a Wedge bash & major gripe session. I guess the work of creating an Anarcho-syndicalist Workers Utopia is never done. Little I've read here shows potential for you to rise in your selected workplace/career or effect a change for the better from within the organization. If you don't like what you're doing or where you're doing it or who you're doing it for, do something else. Go someplace else. This unasked for advice applies to wherever you find yourself in whatever vocational, corporate or garage band realm you've chosen. I'm willing to wager, if you don't find happiness where you are, you won't find it elsewhere until you look within yourself. Please forgive my upset with your whinging. There's little evidence in your comments of an understanding of the connection between the business you create, the profits you make and the pay & benefits you receive. Are workers in unionized conventional grocery stores better off than Wedge workers? Show us the data and the real-life testimonials. The Wedge is formed around the 7 cooperative principles (see: http://www.wedge.coop/whats-co... How does the current Wedge violate those principles? Or tell us all how the membership will be better served if you have run of the business. Do you mean to tell me that workers have no avenues to express their grievances? Or that workers have not effected change at the Wedge? Do you mean to say that no workers are receiving pay bumps or promotions? Or that all workers should have their pay raised no matter what their merit or contribution to the effective operation of the organization?

I've enjoyed shopping at the Wedge. I like its atmosphere and its attentiveness to customer concerns. I've very much appreciated the people who work there, who, despite whatever personal & political intrigues they may carry, are almost always pleasant, informative & helpful, or, at least, manage to seem that way.

The Wedge was formed in 1974 as an alternative to a then status quo. What's to keep those of you who find no redress for your demands within your current situation from forming your own successful, alternative business, organized around your own convictions, capabilities, dreams... and what have you...?

But hey, you won. Party on.

Tree Hugger
Tree Hugger

Word is that the Wedge has hired a new law firm, Seaton, Peters and Revnew. According to their website, their number one practice area is "Partnering with employers to develop effective strategies to lawfully maintain a union-free workplace".

You may recognize them from their recent success on behalf of right-wing politicians who challenged Gov. Dayton's executive order giving in-home child care providers the right to decide for themselves whether or not to join AFSCME or SEIU.

Finally, in typical pro-corporate fashion, Doug Seaton, one of the firm's partners, has contributed $14,250 to right winger campaigns in this election cycle alone.

Just thought co-op members would want to know how management plans on being "totally respectful" of this process.

Skorupa Jenny
Skorupa Jenny

The anti worker climate at the Wedge has been steadily building for the last 15/20 years. It's smart invested workers that built the co-op, it's smart invested workers that have been the heart and soul of the operation and it's the few long-time employees that remain that preserve any vestige of integrity there. It's time we as members, former employees and current employees take back OUR co-op and see the it's leadership reflect our values.

Delibird
Delibird

 Current Wedge employee here.

First off, I would like to say that when I was first hired, the picture that was painted for me by the Deli Manager as well as Elizabeth Archerd and Lindy Bannister (GM) was one that highlighted and played on the strengths of the cooperative movement. I was definitely given the impression that we were a healthy and sustainable foods driven co-op and that our focus was on providing real, good food for our customer base. It quickly became clear to me that this was not the case at all. Though the shelves of the store may be lined with lots of healthy and organic options, the food that is produced in the deli definitely is not. Many of our dishes are made with ingredients that come corporations like Cisco and Monsanto. And the reasoning behind it all follows the same logic that permeates throughout the store.

"We are a business and we care first and foremost about profits."

Of course, they would never admit to this reasoning but spend any significant amount of time employed by The Wedge and you will understand where I am coming from. I'm confident that any in-store employee would corroborate my statement.

There are countless decisions that are made by management behind closed doors and without any transparency whatsoever. Many of these decisions are knee-jerk reactions and made with little research or regard to the employees themselves. Management will also take whatever excuses they can to deny employees the chance at a promotion or a raise. Also, when a recent newsletter was released acknowledging the recent events at CPW, much of its content was aimed towards downplaying the significance of what had happened. In fact, most of the newsletter was rhetoric that only served to confuse and further mislead in-store employees.

All things considered, the employees STILL care about the mission statement of the Wedge. It's just that the management has lost its way and no longer seems to care about anything other than money, money, money. Hopefully articles like these will force Lindy Bannister and her management team's hand into giving recognition where it is due. 

jbtm1951
jbtm1951

as a worker at Co-op Partners for the last 6 years and the one who had Marks job before him I feel I was slapped across the face when they hired him this might cost me my job there but let"s get thing in order  I was working Monday thur Friday when an fellow driver became ill with a tumor in his spin and couldn't heal fast enough ( the Wedge Management relive him of his job which should be against the law)that I was force to work his hours and force back into driving job,where I don't feel that I work to live but now I live to work , and when the person that is hired to replace you tells you that he's making a large amount more then you were its a double slap , don't get me wrong working at Co-op Partners has been GREAT but I've seen things that under Union rules would have never happen = I've worked as a unoin driver and carpenter and the different between a union house built by a union carpenter and a non union is that a house built by non union lasts 20 to 25 years and a union built house will last a 100 years the different between a union driver and a non union driver is that ant non union driver , is here your paper work get out there and deliver it and a union driver is they make sure that the driver KNOWS what he's doing you can ask Christa or any one else there How well I perform, the bad part is that I use what the UNION taught me .I know that I've brought alot and I mean ALOT of information to the company that they didn't know before but it was all union taught. SO I just hope that after venting what I had to say  and  that I still have a job in the furture. With that said I'm PROUD of my FELLOW WORKER that the Stood up I hope everything will mend and the workers untied and Management can work all the details out.

Norma Ray
Norma Ray

As a Wedge member, I am very supportive and excited about this development. We have one of the best grocery stores in the city, if not the country. The workers are responsible for a lot of that success.

The wonderful produce, and other locally grown products the Wedge is often recognized for, come from farms that the Wedge has applauded and genuinely supported for many years.

Perhaps it's time for all of us (members too), to start recognizing the workers that make this store (and the warehouse) great.

After 30 years of union-bashing throughout our society, it's refreshing to see workers still recognizing the value of working together, for the benefit of one another.

This is a great story, right on the heels of May Day.

formeremployee
formeremployee

I was a Wedge employee during the store's union organizing drive a few years ago. The general manager illegally intimidated me after I hung an organizing flier on my day off. I photographed her stalking me as I purchased groceries thereafter. She even followed me out of the store and said, "do you come in often on your days off?" To which I replied, "yes, it's my neighborhood grocery." Later I sent a detailed report of the incident with the photo to the Coop Board. I never heard back and the Coop GM still has her job. Besides intimidation, the standard lies about unions were spread around the coop, making that organizing effort unsuccessful. The Wedge spokesperson quoted in the article is a wonderful person and co-worker - I miss working with her.

Sheriff41
Sheriff41

If any of the statements in this article or comments are true than the Wedge Co-Op Warehouse made an excllent decision in hiring Mark Fanning.  As an employee of Mark's for nearly 3 years at Loomis, I can tell you he was a champion of employee rights at Loomis, was widely respected at our branch, his branches in Wisconsin, by our customers, and the industry as a whole.  He treated every employee with respect, and communicated daily with a smile and level head. He took the time to get to know every employee on a personal level and always had time to hear and discuss our issues.   Mark brought our branch to levels and successes it had never seen.  He is sorely missed at Loomis.  I have never worked for a man that I had more respect for or been treated better as an employee.  If there are issues with employee treatment at the Wedge warehouse Mark is the right manager to fix them.  Good luck Mark!  

Another ex-employee
Another ex-employee

As a co-op, the Wedge has a duty to set the standard for progressive, egalitarian business practices. In its current incarnation, it has fallen offensively short of this ideal, and is, in fact, no more than a typical corporation wrapped in the language and imagery of cooperativism. Union busting, intimidation, and bureaucracy have become the norm, and the management has done everything in their power to circumvent cooperative principles, rather than uphold them. It's incredibly disappointing, and it's something that more people need to know about and understand, because it's such a marked contrast from the organization's public image. It's one thing to operate under the banner of "corporation" and live up to the darkest aspects of that label; it's another thing entirely to pretend to be something better and then betray that ideal through subterfuge. Honestly, I find it far more reprehensible. I don't shop there anymore, and it's really a shame, because if we can't rely on our co-ops to serve as a positive counterpoint to "standard" capitalism, what's left?

Wedge Member
Wedge Member

Mark's professional qualifications were not in question; employees in fact questioned Wedge management's decision to secretly create and fill his position without posting it internally.The issue here is a broad cultural one: the Wedge General Manager has instated restrictive rules, kept wages very low, and even allegedly mocked and intimidated staff members.  Employees are prohibited, according to the Wedge Articles of Incorporation, from running for the Board of Directors or even speaking with a board member!Co-op Partners Warehouse voted for UFCW's representation because its employees felt that they needed to be given a voice.  I encourage the Wedge membership to be vigilant and vocal so that, as the Wedge mission statement reads, we may "Build upon our Cooperative Principles and Values," while respecting and rewarding hard-working employees who are committed to building a better co-op and improving our community.

bourgeois
bourgeois

Elizabeth Archerd: What about the farm you own? Fair wages and benefits? How many hours a day do the farm workers work a day?Just wondering...

Silvester
Silvester

This is Silvester, and I would like to add and make it more clear that I meant that there were already folks at the warehouse who were qualified to fill this new position. I regret the use of the phrase "more qualified" in the story. I did not intend, in any way, to impugn the qualifications of Mr. Fahning or to suggest that he is not qualified for the position.

Rachel
Rachel

Fair wages my ass. I am a former employee, and I can tell you that almost everyone who works there qualifies for food stamps.

fatguy1966
fatguy1966

It looks like The Wedge has a "management problem." Indeed if they did not, the workers would not feel a need to unionize.

Yusinadl
Yusinadl

This is at odds with the union-busting tactics that I know the store on Lyndale has employed in the past to fire people "for other things" who were involved in the push to unionize.  Good for the warehouse employees!

another Wedge member
another Wedge member

According to the article about the hiring of an anti-union law firm, the Wedge representative says:

"Unionization has happened in many co-ops across the country," Archerd says. "Other co-ops report highly positive relationships with their bargaining units, and we expect to develop a positive relationship with the local chosen by warehouse staff to be their representative."

Clearly this math does not add up.

co-op hawk
co-op hawk

This sounds great, if Wedge management can indeed change their ways and truly work with employees.  But I'm wary that they would continue to (try to) spin the news in their favor, make generic public statements, and not admit any wrong-doing.  So far their statements do not sync with their actions.  The hiring of the union-busting law firm speaks volumes.

Delibird
Delibird

 I am reserving my shock and anger until we are given evidence of this. I don't mean to be disrespectful but the comments section of a news article is not what I consider to be an accurate source of information. If this is true, however, then I think the Wedge is in for some dark days.

Another Victim
Another Victim

Thank you for contributing to the discussion. I worked at CPW for about two years, leaving early this year. Lindy Bannister (Wedge GM) exhibited some of the most vile and ignorant behavior of any manager that I have had the displeasure of knowing. This is not to mention the fact that she has no respect or understanding of the Cooperative Principles. If the board does its homework it will find out that Lindy has no place in our cooperative culture.

Dan Sommers
Dan Sommers

I also worked for Mark for several years at Loomis.  He treated everyone with respect and fairness.  His knowlege and commitment to make Loomis better showed in all that he did for us.  Wedge is lucky to have him and he is sorely missed by Loomis. 

Pallet Jackson
Pallet Jackson

As a CPW'er, I have to agree.  Mark is knowledgeable, efficient, and a respectful manager.  It's unfortunate that such a good guy has been put into this position, but Mark has handled it gracefully.  He's a hard worker, and a fair man who handles conflict with open discussion.

When he started with CPW, he was unfairly put in a tricky situation due to no fault of his own.  He's really made the best of a tough lot.

Another ex-employee
Another ex-employee

With that said, I applaud the warehouse employees and hope this leads to some bigger change.

wedge member & employee
wedge member & employee

I support the employees at the warehouse having a union, but I want to clarify something  - the reason that employees cannot serve on the Board of Directors is that the membership voted to establish that rule.  I believe it came up twice as a ballot issue, and both times, the membership voted that employees should not serve on the board.

Barri Cade
Barri Cade

You're unionized now - you don't have to be afraid of management anymore - thanks for speaking your mind. I also work at a co-op in Minneapolis and we've been experiencing similar issues that seem to be occurring at CPW and the Lyndale retail store. 

Someday, every co-op in the metro will be unionized. It's unfortunate that we'd need to unionize a co-op in the first place, but, unbeknownst to the public who aren't aware of the BS behind the scenes, the movement has been "co-opted" by a few hoping to improve their resumes at the expense of the employees, volunteers, and members. People are planning to unionize elsewhere, and you've inspired all of us immensely. 

Stay strong and solidarity!  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... 

Carrie Green
Carrie Green

They've got a job opening on their website for a cook (in the deli) ...starting pay is 8 to 10 bucks an hour.  That's barely over minimum wage for a non-tipped position requiring evenings, weekends, and countless hours on one's feet.  Doesn't seem to fit with the co-op spirit...

co-op hawk
co-op hawk

I did a little fact-checking and found that Mr. Seaton and Mr. Peters are named as contributors to Michele Bachmann's campaign ($1,000)...

Pro CPWU
Pro CPWU

I work at the warehouse and can confirm that they have hired this firm.

Pro CPWU
Pro CPWU

I'm an employee at CPW and I can confirm that this is the case, heard it from Curtis a few days ago. At first Dorsey and Whitney were retained and maybe still are. I hear they ask about $500/hr, I guess the Wedge can afford that. The Wedge has added Seaton, Peters and Revnew...

http://www.seatonlaw.com/areas...

If you're a member at the Wedge, please make your voice heard on this issue.

Pro CPWU
Pro CPWU

As another CPW'er, I agree that Mark has been put in an unfair position, one that Management could have controlled if not avoided if they had treated their employees, including Mark, with proper respect and dignity. Mark is not our issue at this point, what's done is done. Management is and those of us for the union feel that we have been repeatedly let down by those at the top. Unionization is the only way we see to insure some consistency and accountability from them.

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