(p. 29) Had you found yourself with nothing to read at any point this summer, the letters section of The Linewaiters’ Gazette, the bi-weekly newsletter of the Park Slope Food Coop, might have sated a certain narrative hunger. Serving a community of 17,000 members, The Gazette is a forum for news, grievance, debate, inquiry and perhaps above all, the expression of principle.
. . .
Given the seriousness with which the co-op takes matters of equity and justice, it surprised many members to learn that an effort on the part of some paid workers to unionize had not been going smoothly. Member owned and operated since its founding in the 1970s, the co-op permits only those who work a certain number of hours per month (behind the cash register, unloading delivery trucks, stocking oranges and so on) to shop there. It also employs about 75 people, all but 11 or so of whom receive an hourly wage.
How was it possible that these workers in an institution so famously aligned with the left were not already unionized? It was like imagining the Catholic Church without baptism. As one stunned member pointed out in his letter to The Gazette, the co-op is “literally on Union Street.”
Money is not what has motivated the movement. Many workers receive upward of $27 an hour, and health-insurance fees are not deducted from that pay. Instead, as Marc Thompson, who has been behind the effort to organize, told me, the problems have had more to do with strained dynamics between workers and supervisors and poor communication generally.
Another big issue is that the co-op is an “at will” shop, meaning that workers can be let go at any time for any reason, without managers having to offer cause. Although it rarely happens, the notion that such a scenario could play out has troubled certain employees. The last time someone was abruptly fired, it was because of theft, Mr. Holtz explained, and that was three years ago.
. . .
In a letter to The Gazette that appeared in May , a group of workers representing the majority who oppose the union said they had “doubts that the traditional union model is the right fit for our very nontraditional workplace.” They were pro-union as a matter of political belief but thought that the co-op had “a rich history” of solving its own problems. Whatever was wrong could be handled within the family, in essence.
For the full story, see:
Ginia Bellafante. “BIG CITY; A Labor Rights Rift? Say It’s Not So, Park Slope Food Coop!” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, September 22, 2019): 29.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story was last updated on Sept. 30 [sic], 2019, and has the title “BIG CITY; They Tried to Unionize the Park Slope Food Coop. Guess What Happened.” Above, I cite the title, section, and page number from my National print edition. Those may have been different in the New York print edition. Where there are differences in wording between the online and print versions, the passages quoted above follow the print version.)