Saturday, June 24, 2017

Co-ops and the Unions

Seward Community Food Co-op workers have now voted by an overwhelming count to unionize, becoming the last food retail co-op in Minneapolis to do so.

Workers lost their voice,” said Gina Montenaro, 37, a Seward cashier. “When Seward expanded, it became more corporate.” 

Cashier Bea Cooper, 23, read a statement accusing Seward managers of “unequal and unfair application of discipline, discrimination and harassment in the workplace” and “intimidation through various means, including one-on-one meetings.”

Amy Swenson, 41, who works on samples offered at the stores, said in an interview that since she began the organizing effort, she has been disciplined several times. She said that hasn’t deterred her. “It’s made me more fired up,” she said.

Food co-ops in Minneapolis have seen a recent surge in unionization. Linden Hills Co-op and East Side Food Co-op, each with about 85 eligible employees, were unionized this year by Local 653, and the Wedge Community Co-op, which has about 160 employees, was unionized in 2015 by UFCW Local 1189.

When Whole Foods of Duluth, Minnesota, (no relation to Whole Foods Market, the anti-union, anti-co-op) began their drive, the management resisted. Quoting from an AFL-CIO newsletter: “All efforts to ask Whole Foods board and management to recognize the union or at least stay neutral … were met with ‘that’s against our belief system’ from them,” said UFCW organizer Abraham Wangnoo. 

Cooperatives exist within a market system, their interests are to compete with other companies and expand their market share. Advocating cooperatives is akin to allowing small groups of slaves on a small number of plantations to self-manage themselves. It makes life better for some, but it doesn’t end the system of exploitation. Using the term “wage slavery” socialists mean that workers under capitalism are not ‘slaves’ to a particular boss, but through the system of wages they are compelled to work for bosses as a class in order to survive. It is whysocialists believe that an end to capitalism requires a struggle for the abolition of the wage system. 

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