In a show of support of the labor movement and its overall mission to be an advocate for the working class and in support of workers’ rights, and in support of the cooperative’s employees’ rights to collective bargaining and Union representation, Three Rivers Market management voluntarily recognized the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union in April 2021. Three Rivers Market views UFCW as a partner in the cooperative’s workplace that will support our shared interests in the welfare of the cooperative’s employees, the growth of the cooperative’s business, and our positive impact on our local economy.
As the only food co-op in Tennessee, we are aware that few Tennesseans know about co-ops. The same is true of unions and the concept of Voluntary Recognition. In addition to elections conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), federal law provides employees a second path to choose a representative: They may ask an employer to voluntarily recognize a union. When this did not happen, our General Manager, Jacqueline Arthur, contacted the union’s attorney with the offer. Asked why, Arthur replied:
“When I found out some of our Level 1 and 2 employees were interested in joining the UFCW, I first reached out to my colleagues Pam Mehnert, General Manager at Outpost Natural Foods in Milwaukee, WI and Rochelle Prunty, General Manager at River Valley Market in Northampton, MA. Both of these exceptional food co-ops have supportive relationships with the UFCW and both General Managers recommended I offer Voluntary Recognition. It wasn’t a difficult decision. Since Tennessee is a Right to Work state, Level 1 or 2 employees that do not choose to join the UFCW will not have to.”
When a union is voluntarily recognized, the employer must post a notice for 45 days informing employees that recognition has been volunteered and that they have a right to file a petition for representation by a different union and/or an election. If no petition has been filed with the NLRB in those 45 days, we begin the process to create a bargaining agreement. Our bargain began earlier this month.
The Board applauds our General Manager for proactively supporting employees’ right to organize with UFCW.
Two years ago, the Board affirmed in its Employee Treatment Policy the policies and procedures outlined in our Employee Manual in support of Three Rivers Market management’s strong record of prioritizing exemplary employment practices. This includes our General Manager’s work to develop an alternative to “at will” employment, to pay employees an additional $5.27-$11.00/hour based on exposure to risk at the height of the Pandemic, and to elevate the Wage Structure to the current $15/hour minimum wage for entry-level employees. The myriad of economic benefits provided to our employees can be found here.
Members who would like more information about how UFCW membership affects operations may email email@example.com. Members who would like more information about how UFCW membership affects the Board’s responsibilities including ensuring sound management of the co-op’s resources, acting as trustees on behalf of the members, and setting long-range goals and planning for the future may email firstname.lastname@example.org.