Workers at the largest retail food co-op in the Twin Cities have voted to unionize, a first for the local co-op movement.
In an election held Monday, 76 employees at the Wedge Community Co-op voted to join United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1189; 31 voted no.
The Twin Cities has one the largest concentration of food co-ops in the country, and the Wedge, at 2105 Lyndale Av. S., is one of the oldest and most prominent.
Workers’ concerns that led to unionizing included wanting a fair process for establishing wages and benefits, and ensuring they have a voice as co-ops grow larger and more corporate, said Abraham Wangnoo, Local 1189’s organizing director.
“Traditionally, co-op workers have been very engaged in the workplace,” he said.
The Wedge’s warehouse in St. Paul, which has about 40 workers, was unionized by the UFCW in 2012. “They have been a very good employer to deal with on a contract level in St. Paul,” Wangnoo said. He said he expects a similar stance by the Wedge toward negotiating a contract at the Lyndale Avenue store.
“For the most part during the election, the company did a good job at being neutral,” Wangnoo said. In other words, it didn’t actively campaign against the union, as is common in union elections.
“I think we’ve been extremely cooperative with the union since they first arrived last December to organize,” said Josh Resnik, the Wedge’s CEO. “I think it’s about as cooperative an organizing campaign as you can get, and I don’t expect that to change in negotiating a contract.”
The Wedge started in 1974 in the basement of a Franklin Avenue apartment building and moved to its existing location in 1979. Today, the Wedge has 15,000 members and is one of the nation’s largest retail food cooperatives. A handful of other co-ops nationally also are unionized, Resnik said.
Earlier this year, the Wedge opened the Wedge Table, a cafe/bodega-style retail outlet on 24th Street and Nicollet Avenue S. Workers at the Wedge Table were not included in Monday’s union vote.