May 12, 2015
Co-op Charged with Intimidating and Interfering with its Workers’ Rights
Last week, the UFCW filed a federal charge with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that management at the Hanover-Lebanon Cooperative Society in New Hampshire unlawfully stifled workers’ rights to organize – including preventing them from talking about unions inside the store and intimidating workers who were discussing organizing a union. The Hanover-Lebanon Cooperative Society employs over 400 workers out of five retail locations and a commissary kitchen and does business locally as The Co-op Food Stores.
“Unions and co-ops are like peas and pods – they stem from the same core, they share the same values,” said co-op Member Len Ziefert. “It is antithetical for co-ops to oppose unionization, unions are employees working cooperatively.”
The member-owned co-op has been in the spotlight over the last year following the termination of two well-regarded employees. The fired workers sued co-op management, claiming they were fired as retaliation for speaking out about workplace conditions and for talking with union representatives. After the fallout from this lawsuit, members elected three new directors to the board who are focused on making the co-op more worker-friendly. While the wrongful termination case is currently still being litigated, this unrelated NLRB charge raises the question if anything has changed at The Co-op Food Stores or if co-op management continues to engage in anti-worker practices.
“By standing together in union, workers preserve their voice and true co-op principles,” said Reid Kotlas, a regular shopper. “The Co-op Food Stores should live up to the values of its member-owners and of the co-op movement and respect its workers’ rights to organize a union.”