Did You Know? GreenStar Workers Are Organizing a Union

During this past year, the Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC) has been strongly supporting a group of workers wanting to organize a union at GreenStar Coop in Ithaca. Some of the reasons that unionizing workers point to as their reason to organize include: insufficient job security, unfair or inconsistent wages, blatant favoritism, and unprofessional conduct from managers. The obstacles to organizing that workers have experienced from management have included intimidation, retaliation, verbal abuse, threats, and attempts to disqualify workers from voting in a union election by providing them with managerial duties. These have occurred in many forms, such as closed-door meetings and personal conversations with workers that include “advice” to stay away from any and all union talk happening at GreenStar.”

On Thursday, June 27th, the TCWC facilitated a meeting that took place with the GreenStar Union Organizing Committee; GreenStar management and Board; GreenStar Members/TCWC Members (including a few investors in GreenStar’s expansion); and Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 1111. The reason for the meeting was our collective concern about how GreenStar was responding to the Organizing Committee’s campaign for a union that initially indicated an anti-union stance from the Coop.

During the meeting we collectively addressed our concerns of ongoing retaliation for union activity and were able to get GreenStar management to agree to a policy of noninterference with our growing union effort. This agreement included a clear statement of support for workers’ right to organize, and a commitment to retrain managers to cease intimidating workers for their support of the union, as well as instruction not to provide their opinion on unionizing. Additionally, management has committed to sending a letter to staff clarifying that any worker who is asked to be privy to hiring decisions will not be disqualified from voting in a union recognition election.

The especial significance of the TCWC engagement with this unionizing effort, as with all efforts that initiate with the TCWC, is the importance of community engagement with unionizing efforts. That is, many attempts to unionize on a local, regional, and national level tend to not engage with the larger community. The fact of the larger community being organized by the TCWC, as well as the community nature of GreenStar Coop, offers a unique opportunity in that many TCWC Members, as well as GreenStar Members (numbering over 12,000 people) have a stake in the operation of a community-owned business, a unique phenomenon in our society.

The TCWC promises to stay on top of how the unionizing campaign continues to develop and deepen at GreenStar. We are committed to supporting the rights of workers to organize in an environment of worker democracy, and engage with management as things go forward.

Stay tuned to developments as they unfold!