Wedge Co-op hires 'anti-union' law firm for labor negotiations

thewedge.jpg
The Wedge Co-op has hired a new law firm to deal with its negotiations
The Wedge Co-op has hired an anti-union law firm to handle labor negotiations with its newly unionized warehouse employees, a labor organizer says.

Wedge spokeswoman Elizabeth Archerd confirms the co-op has hired Seaton, Peters & Revnew to "advise on the legalities of contract negotiations," though the firm resists being characterized as anti-union.

UFCW 1189 organizer Curtis Neff says he doesn't want to be "negative" toward the Wedge, since negotiations have yet to begin, but says he is a "little disappointed to see them using a union-avoidant law firm." Union-avoidant, Neff explains, is code for "union-busting."

The Wedge was previously represented by attorneys at Dorsey & Whitney, but management retained the new firm for negotiations.

Seaton, Peters & Revnew exclusively represents management and lists at the top of its Labor-Management Relations web page that its services include "partnering with employers to develop effective strategies to lawfully maintain a union-free workplace."

Doug Seaton, one of the firm's partners, says it's unfair and "inaccurate" to call his firm anti-union for solely representing employers. Few law firms, Seaton says, "cross to the other side of the street."

Moreover, the firm has negotiated "many agreements" with unions, some of which have lasted "30 years," Seaton says.

In this case, Seaton says he's looking forward to the bargaining process, and reaching agreement on terms "that both parties can endorse and live under."

"We assume everybody will be operating in good faith as they're obliged to, and we look forward to being able to reach agreement with them," Seaton says.

Neff, too, is outwardly optimistic about the process.

"I hope the law firm helps them work toward getting a good contract for the workers," Neff says.

Workers at the Wedge's warehouse, Co-Op Partners Warehouse, recently organized to express dissatisfaction with wages and management decisions, as we previously reported. One employee said the workers want to bring "a little bit more democracy back into the co-op."

Archerd says the iconic co-op expects to create a positive relationship with their newly formed warehouse union.

"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."

Previous coverage
Wedge Co-op warehouse employees unionize


Location Info

The Wedge Community Co-op

2105 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant


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36 comments
ferryjason68
ferryjason68

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dog bite injury milwaukee

Labor-Management Interaction website that its services involve "partnering with business employers to create effective techniques to by law sustain a union-free office.

Marcos Lopez-Carlson
Marcos Lopez-Carlson

The Wedge co-op is a reflection of it's membership values. The Wedge membership and Board are primarily concerned with the size of the patronage refund checks and little else. When over a million dollars are distributed back to the members no one seems to be upset or concerned that this is happening because the average worker is earning less than the Minneapolis living wage.

If Wedge members are truly upset about this they need to make their voices heard and utilize the power of cooperative ownership, rather than walking away in disgust. The average Wedge election has a 5% voter turnout, this means that the priorities and values of the Wedge are being determined by an active minority rather than a democratic majority.

Saying this is not a co-op anymore is ridiculous, it is exactly the co-op the member have created, and it is up to the member to reclaim their co-op.

find attorneys at law
find attorneys at law

Recently there are many social institute which is always work for labor. The voluntary business batter materialize which comprised a positive incentive, rather than a attach to businesses to stay to certain grades of perform in remedy of their supplier's workers.

Healthy Elsewhere
Healthy Elsewhere

I have stopped shopping The Wedge for many choices and this is just another. They disgust me and have become arrogant in their quest to make BIG profits. They are disrespectful to the neighborhood, it customers and the poor. Can not wait for the day they go under, and they will

left-handed smoke shifter
left-handed smoke shifter

An hour ago this comment was posted in response to a customer post the Wedge FB page:Our Board of Directors has rescinded the offer to Seaton, Peters and Revnew. After further consideration, they decided to continue working with Dorsey & Whitney, the law firm we have worked with for the past two years. The firm has a track record of productive labor negotiations on behalf of local grocers, including some represented by UFCW Local 1189: the union our warehouse employees have chosen to represent them. We believe Dorsey & Whitney will best help us represent our values throughout the negotiation process, and apologize for not conducting a more thorough initial search for legal representation. It has always been our intention to support our employees' right to unionize and to enter negotiations in good faith.

guest
guest

As an employee I can say that wedge workers probably average about one 50 cent raise every 2 years if they have perfect attendance, excel at their job, and dont say or do anything to let management believe they are at all unhappy. I have worked there for over 4 years doing these things and I still dont earn a living wage and could qualify for food stamps.  I have also been denied raises in reviews the past for expressing that I was unhappy with my current pay. Apparently at the wedge being unhappy with making under 10.00 dollars an hour while the store is making 10,000 dollars an hour is considered a bad attitude.  This would be understandable working at a fast food restaraunt or a conventional grocery chain but the wedge has an image that they really care about their employees which just isn't the case.  We do get a quarterly profit sharing  but most of the staff just views that as a way for the store to change our pay scale from quarter to quarter without us having any say.  Despite these conditions the employees really care about the store, the customers, and the neighborhood that is why we continue to work there despite managements constant attempts to keep our mouths shut and our morale low.  I love being part of the coop but honestly I would probably be doing better working at rainbow.  It's no wonder half our staff from  2 years ago now works at the Seward.

wedge member
wedge member

I was trying to figure out why the Wedge would have switched to this law firm specifically. I figured their high profile case against Dayton, with support from the "Childcare Freedom" group was probably it (which turns my stomach - seriously, look at the organizations associated with that group).

I also found out that Doug Seaton,was a presenter at the Libertarian Party of MN convention on April 14th.

We all know how pro-union and cooperative the Libertarian party is, so I really think we should all just calm down and see how this plays out.....what the?

 

Jen
Jen

First of all, the Wedge workers (with their union) are going to win this one (are you kidding me??  This is the next HUGE chapter in Twin Cities Co-op History!)

So, please keep your Wedge membership, contact the Wedge board members, and continue to vote.  And please support the store (especially the produce department!)  This will show your support for the unionized warehouse workers, and for any future attempts to unionize the retail store.  (Also, as you checkout, let your cashier know that you are shopping in support of the workers, and for the positive changes they are trying to bring about.)

Looking at the bigger picture, I think this is a wake-upcall to Twin Cities Co-ops, that it is not enough to rest on their historicallaurels of “political correctness,” or even worse, to rest on the glowing reportsof a healthy bottom line.

As co-ops have grown larger, with continued booming sales inorganics and natural foods, they must be cautioned against becoming too“old-school corporate” in their management styles and procedures.  I suspect some local co-op GMs have been riding the booming organic and natural food sales "bubble" and wouldn't know what to do (or wouldn't even care) if it burst.  They'd just take their small fortunes and run (stopping off for burgers and fries at McD's on the way.)

Every month the Wedge newsletter reports record sales,record growth…so why have some employees waited years for raises and/orpromotions?  How many employees have quitbecause they felt management was not really interested in their ideas orconcerns?  How many talented, intelligent workers haveleft after seeing no clear pathway into higher positions within the co-op?

And, why are Wedge deli workers starting at the same wagethat I received, as a deli/bakery worker almost 20 years ago?!

In the Twin Cities, in Minnesota—we all just expect morefrom our co-ops.  We expect them to be morethan Whole Foods or Trader Joe's.

Cray cray
Cray cray

Look my fellow Minneapolitans. I've always said to people since day one, The Wedge being a "Co-Op" is nothing but a marketing scheme.  The Wedge is just a grocery store, a business, the kind that needs to survive against low-low-prices of big boxes.  In order to do it, it first has to charge a good premium, which is where "organic" marketing comes in, and secondly needs to keep its own expenses low.  Cub Foods has tried for years to take out its union and failed, so not saying The Wedge will prevail, but I'm saying that those who believe The Wedge is some liberal wet dream where workers get weekly massages should wake up.  A business is a business and even in Minneapolis, it will work for its bottom line.

pseudosky
pseudosky

Will drop my @7429a3964d2587691af28bc7dedbb082:disqus ship unless I hear the wedge drops this disgusting contract with this union-buster by the end of the week. Join me! Support @be54659771292826dbfb8555e13b32a6:disqus s!

pseudosky
pseudosky

Will drop my @7429a3964d2587691af28bc7dedbb082:disqusship unless I hear the wedge drops this disgusting contract with this union-buster by the end of the week. Join me! Support @be54659771292826dbfb8555e13b32a6:disqus s! 

pseudosky
pseudosky

Another @7429a3964d2587691af28bc7dedbb082:disqus -ship unless I hear the wedge drops this disgusting contract with this union-buster by the end of the week. Support @be54659771292826dbfb8555e13b32a6:disquss

Pro-Co-op = Pro-Labor
Pro-Co-op = Pro-Labor

"Doug Seaton, one of the firm's partners, says it's unfair and "inaccurate" to call his firm anti-union for solely representing employers."

No Mr. Seaton, you are an anti-union firm because: your website suggests it, your thousands of dollars to right-wing candidates endorse it, and your recent lawsuit (representing anti-labor politicians) against at-home childcare providers seeking union representation - proves it!

A firm of Dorsey & Whitney's size and stature could have helped the Wedge "advise on the legalities of contract negotiations" - there is clearly an alternative agenda here.

Either the Wedge Management is going to put up a big, drawn out contract negotiation that is unfair to the organized workers, or they are looking to aggressively squash any organizing at the retail store.

either choice is reprehensible, and the Board of Directors should be hearing from their members.

Wedge Member
Wedge Member

 The Wedge Co-op has a "member satisfaction" survey going on until April 30th. It's on the front page of their website.

I'd encourage people to express their concerns over the handling of this matter.

Pro-Co-op = Pro-Labor
Pro-Co-op = Pro-Labor

Seems like a firm of Dorsey and Whitney's size and stature could have easily handled what should be a straight forward contract negotiation. Why the switch?

Seaton, Peters & Revnew very recently represented right-wing politicians in challenging Gov. Dayton's executive order that would have allowed at-home childcare providers the option to join AFSCME or SEIU. Doug Seaton himself has donated 10s of thousands of dollars to right-wing, pro-corporate campaigns in the last few years alone (search doug seaton on http://fundrace.huffingtonpost.... Doug Seaton said they've negotiated "many agreements", but they make it abundantly clear who's interests they serve on their website, and through their public actions.

If the Wedge management is looking to be respectful of workers, and maintain the "cooperative spirit", why would they specifically choose such an obvious pro-corporate, anti-worker law firm?

The Wedge Board of Directors happens to be asking for comments and concerns from the membership until April 30th (to help the board learn about perceptions members have about the wedge, etc.).

Here is a link to the survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/...

Seems like a good time to start practicing democracy, and letting the board know that we hope for a positive and expeditious resolution that's fair to Coop Partners workers, but they also should acknowledge the necessity to provide living wages for all Wedge Cooperative employees.

Let's let the board know that we don't accept management's use of our funds, to support a pro-corporate, anti-worker agenda.

the fabulous rustyB
the fabulous rustyB

this is quite disgusting. i will be sending my response to this to the wedge and will be shopping elsewhere.

Sally Jo Sorensen
Sally Jo Sorensen

The firm was also on the Coleman side of the recount (though not the legal team itself). I hope this genius hire works out just as well for management at the Wedge.

Nick
Nick

"It has always been our intention to support our employees' right to unionize and to enter negotiations in good faith."Oh, if THAT isn't a heap of bullshit…

Satorrotas2011
Satorrotas2011

Not to dismiss your legitimate concerns,  can you give readers an idea of how pay & benefits of Wedge deli workers, among others, compare to those at comparable positions in conventional grocery stores?

You seem to be suggesting, also, that Wedge workers don't get raises and promotions. Are you arguing that workers should automatically get raises and receive promotions? The inability to see a clear pathway into higher positions sometimes has to do with lack of vision. 

Member and worker
Member and worker

Excellent points! And you are right -- boycotting the Wedge could hurt the workers we're trying to support, especially if management tried to blame the union for scaring off customers.  And who knows, if the retail store employees see that the union has strong support in the community, maybe they'll have the courage to organize as well.  

Satorrotas2011
Satorrotas2011

What? No massages? Maybe the Union can negotiate for that.

Yet another Wedge member
Yet another Wedge member

If you withdraw your membership, you lose your vote and your voice.  Money talks at the Wedge -- especially member dollars.  And, if members (and staff) who support the union leave, who will be left to oppose this?  Stay, and raise a ruckus -- and maybe spend your money elsewhere and make sure they know the reasons why.  Management isn't going anywhere soon, and will not back down from this without pressure from the Board and the membership, but most of all, from falling sales.  

Wedgemember
Wedgemember

I would like to point out that it was the Wedge Board of Directors that stated, as quoted above from the email sent last night, that they have always intended to support employees' right to unionize...' Etc. I can confirm that the Wedge board of directors treated CPW staff fairly and with dignity in the weeks before and after the union vote.

Wedge MANAGEMENT, however, is another story. Lindy Bannister was nothing but a bundle of disgust and fury through the whole process, as well as before and after. SHE is the reason that employees at the store and warehouse are outraged; it's her policies, rubber-stamped by the HR manager Kathy Voss, that keep wages and Morale at the store abysmally low. Her politics and her authoritarian management style go directly against everything the Wedge stands for.

I urge Wedge members to avoid rushing to judgment about the entire store. Don't abandon it! Don't stop shopping there! Instead, let's reach out to the board and work to fix what's wrong with it. Different leadership would make a world of difference.

J. Galt
J. Galt

I am one of those workers who has never gotten a raise OR a promtion and I've been there through waves of hires and fires. I assure you that those who would like to move up at the Wedge are held down by fluffed up and obscenely stricht policies that not only prevent them from promotions and raises but keep them working in positions that have a larger work load for less pay than new hires. Not only do they overlook moving up employees with experience and seniority they hire people without experience and have the under paid senior staff training them. I can't agree with your idea of "lack of vision" but maybe that just means I should've been more money hungry and plotted my way to that raise instead of spending 2 years earning it with hard work, flexibilty, and team work.

I support CPW because I know the game is not being played fair. I hope for a change.

Jen
Jen

I am not sure how pay and benefits for Wedge deli workers compare with thoseat conventional grocery stores.  I wasjust pointing out that the starting wage at the Wedge deli has not changed much(from what I earned at the Wedge) almost 20 years ago. And that seems strangefor a company whose newsletter reports constant financial growth.

And no, I do not think Wedge workers should get automatic raises andpromotions, but deserving employees should not be told that they’ll need towait for a raise because of ‘the economy’ or some other concocted story,especially in light of how well the Wedge does financially.

  

I also don’t mean to speak for current/recent Wedge employees—I think theirconcerns go far beyond pay issues.  Thereseems to be an overall atmosphere of negligence and disrespect, coming from topmanagement, if you read the posts responding to "Wedge Co-op Warehouse Employees Unionize" written April 16, 2012.

By reading all the posts written by current and former Wedge employees, you’llstart to see a pattern--and get a clearer picture of what inspired thewarehouse (CPW) workers to form a union. 

You’ll also learn that store workers have attempted unionizing in thepast—why?  Shouldn’t co-op workers have avoice within their workplace, and be reasonably heard by the management,without fear of retaliation, and before feeling the need to unionize?(Check out the Rochdale CooperativePrinciples: http://www.ica.coop/coop/princ... 

These principles emphasize "democracy, honesty, equity, openness, and caring for others" among many other noble ideals for guiding a group of people, who are united in a  cooperative effort to run an organization or business.  The Wedge seems to have done a pretty good job following these principles on a community/public outreach level; however, some Wedge managers seem to have lost sight of many of these principles when considering the workers in their own store and warehouse.

Seriously
Seriously

@ Satorrotas2011, It has nothing to do with the comparable positions in other stores. Even if The Wedge is paying a minimally higher wage to their workers than say, deli food slingers at Cub or Rainbow, there is still an issue with the fact that these employees are not making living wages and that the company they work for is highly profiting off the image that this is a good job and a worthy place to spend your dollars because of the "generous benefits" Elizabeth Archerd seems to always report to publications like City Pages.

Pro CPWU
Pro CPWU

I have no idea how deli wages compare. I work at the warehouse and know that there are people who have gotten raises and who didn't get raises who do similar levels of work. I know that raises are not tied to reviews. You might ask how they are determined, we have the same question. Does our manager determine them? Does the GM? Based on what? Is management grooming talent from within for higher positions? No. So, yes, I would say there is a lack of vision on Management's part to see clear pathways into higher positions for those employees who have shown themselves to be conscientious and desirous of new challenges.

Healthy Elsewhere
Healthy Elsewhere

 shopping elsewhere is effective.......uumm if no one buys your moldy bug infested crap, you ain't gonna be in business

Adam
Adam

I would point out, Nick, that Wedge and warehouse employees are forbidden to speak with Wedge board members.  Seriously.  So of course the board didn't have any idea how employees felt or what was happening "on the ground" so to speak.

http://www.cooperativegrocer.c... 

I'm not sure exactly what system the Wedge board uses, but most cooperatives employ the Policy Governance model (linked above, just Google "Policy Governance Cooperative for more articles and info).  It basically states that the membership elects and advises the Board, which hires, fires, and advises the General Manager.  The General Manager oversees employees including all department managers.  In this way it basically allows for a separation of power and a chain of accountability: Members --> Board --> GM --> Employees.  The chain ends with the employees, except for the occasional employee survey like the one they had last Fall, wherein employees almost unanimously expressed displeasure with management, but nothing seems to have been done about it.

The fact of the matter is that the Wedge Board members generally only hear what the GM tells them at board meetings as part of her structured presentation.  Mostly the GM presentations consist of financial reporting.  Even if there are major problems and rumblings going on with employees, why would a GM convey that to the board?  It shows weakness.  And like I said, employees are forbidden to speak directly with board members.

That means that our only choice is to make an appeal to the Wedge membership, who must in turn voice their concerns to the board.  The Wedge board members have already shown their responsiveness to member dissatisfaction by releasing the "Union busting" law firm yesterday and hiring back Dorsey & Whitney.  I have confidence that the board listens well to its membership and takes their concerns seriously.

It's just that we have to make a visible fuss in order for them to know what's going on.

Nick
Nick

Point taken, although I wonder what it says about the board that they have been this clueless about the goings-on in their own store for this long.

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