Ashland Food Co-op found in violation of labor law

2012 March 12
by admin

Ashland, OR – A majority of workers at Ashland Food Co-op have been united since June of 2011 to improve their working conditions by organizing a union with United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 555. Ashland Food Co-op management learned of workers’ desire to organize and reacted swiftly with heavy handed tactics to try and sway workers away from unionization. The Employer’s actions included soliciting and promising to remedy grievances, providing benefits to employees that it previously refused to provide, disciplining union activists, threatening employees with more severe discipline if they voted for a union, instituting a rule that prohibited employees from discussing the union and then enforcing this rule only against employees who supported the union, and soliciting employees to sign an anti-union petition


The environment of open hostility and infringement of employee rights under federal labor law necessitated the filing of an unfair labor practice charge against Ashland Food Co-op in October of 2011. The ultimate charge listed 16 counts of actions by management or Board of Directors that the Union believed violated federal labor law. “I was shocked to see the Co-op follow in the footsteps of countless corporate employers who use fear and misinformation to dissuade workers from taking an active role in improving their workplace,” said Anne Dietz, Local 555 Director of Organizing. The Union also filed a petition for a secret election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. The Board’s regional office in Seattle placed a hold on the election petition given the ULP charge. According to the Board’s Casehandling Manual for elections, it is a well-established policy of the Board to “block” elections where allegations, if proven, would suggest employer conduct that interferes with employee free choice.

After months of careful investigation and evidence gathering, Local 555 has learned that the NLRB’s Seattle Office has found sufficient evidence against the management of AFC on 13 of the counts. Evidence supported the following counts: Interrogating employees about their union support, sentiments and/or activities; making coercive statements to employees about the union and also making intimidating statements to employees to discourage union activity. AFC management, to the Union’s knowledge, long refused to settle the case and take actions to make a free and fair election possible. It is only after the Union and union advocates supplied substantial information in support of its charge that AFC management finally appeared willing to settle its case.

“We want AFC to honor federal labor law and we want AFC to honor the vote of a majority of employees whether to form a union or not,” said Katie Hughes, a Front End employee at AFC. “A free and fair election is impossible when AFC is using threats, punishment and incentives to sway the vote. We first tried to stop the Co-op’s interference through our in-house methods. We filed a charge with the NLRB reluctantly only after what we believe to be rampant and unrelenting violations of the law. We now hope that AFC will take appropriate actions, remedy the violations of federal law and safeguard employee free choice.”

As details of the settlement emerge workers can be found planning the next stages of their campaign in an effort to reunify their co-workers in an environment absent of law violations and intimidation. For further updates please go to

Anne Dietz
UFCW Local 555
503-840-7104 (cell)
503-620-3816 (fax)


Within the past six months, the Employer, by its supervisors, agents and/or Board of Directors, has interfered with, restrained, and coerced its employees in the exercise of their Section 7 rights by its actions including:

1. Recognizing, imposing, dominating, or otherwise supporting a labor organization through the recognition and maintenance of the “Staff Council”.

2. In the alternative, the Employer has violated the Act by telling employees that the Staff Council is their union, or is a de facto union, when the Staff Council is not, in fact, a legitimate labor organization.

3. Soliciting employee grievances in response to an organizing campaign.

4. Remedying employee grievances to discourage employee support for the Union.

5. Granting benefits to employees to discourage employee support for the Union.

6. Engaging in polling, surveillance, and/or interrogation by conducting meetings where employees were directed to share their grievances and sentiments about the union organizing.

7. Promulgating and maintaining a rule prohibiting union related conversations in work areas while allowing other non-work related conversations in work areas.

8. Prohibiting pro-union activities by employees while allowing anti-union activities by employees.

9. Interrogating employees about their union support, sentiments and/or activities.

10. Making coercive statements to employees about the Union.

11. Making intimidating statements to employees to discourage union activity.

12. Making implied threats to employees that more severe discipline would be given if the Union becomes the representative of employees.

13. Circulating an anti-union petition and/or solicited employee signatures on an anti-union petition.


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