Bargaining Update April 27 2023

April Bargaining Updates

NSLU and NSM met up at the bargaining table twice during the month of April, on the 11th and 27th. At these sessions a number of important proposals and counter-proposals were made on Attendance, Stewards Rights, the Grievance Process, Bargaining Unit Work, and more! The next bargaining session is scheduled for Thursday, May 25 from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm.

If you would like to be an observer at a bargaining session, want more information about any of the proposals mentioned, or want to help out, please get in touch with an organizer at your store.

April 11 — Session # 6

The spokesperson for New Seasons bargaining team, Maria Anastas, presented counter-proposals to the union’s previous proposals on Articles of Recognition and Union Security, which recognizes the union as the collective bargaining representative at union shops and lays out the terms under which the union is able to collect dues from members (note: dues rates still to be determined as contract negotiations develop). Despite bargaining with all the unionized stores collectively, NSM is insisting on a recognition clause that separates each store into its own bargaining unit. It is NSLU’s position that all unionized stores will form one bargaining unit, and the company is already bargaining with us all collectively. We hope to reach an agreement soon that recognizes the unity of NSLU and treats every unionized store as part of the larger collective NSLU. Other important details pertaining to these articles discussed among the parties included:

  • an understanding that the union will NOT have any initiation fees (some union’s practice this) and will only collect regular dues,
  • Establishes when a member who is not in good-standing will be terminated (31 days after union notice, submitted to store leadership)
  • At orientation, NSM will provide union-represented new hires with a link to the relevant collective bargaining agreement
  • NSM pushed to include a clause about exempting people from dues if they have sincerely-held religious beliefs against paying dues. We are pushing to have this excluded from the contract, as such situations are incredibly rare, and would already be covered under existing non-discrimination law. Additionally, a clause like this is very unusual, and not found in almost any of the other collective bargaining agreements reviewed by the bargaining team.

Following this, NSM returned counter-proposals to our proposed article on Employee Definitions. NSM hit back at our proposed 20-hour weekly average threshold for full time staff (which used to be the old threshold), insisting on the 24-hour minimum for full-time status.

The NSM bargaining team presented two common articles put forth by the managers that are used to limit the power of unions: Management Rights and a No Strike Clause. Most management rights clauses are a sentence or two, just explaining that the company has the ability to make decisions about running the business, so long as it does not violate anything in the CBA. However, NSM’s proposed management rights article was an extensive, multi-page list of all the powers New Seasons wants reserved as the exclusive rights of management, covering almost every single aspect of our working conditions. This is both unfair to the union as it would remove almost all of our ability to bargain, and it would also make administering the contract and coming to decisions on grievances almost impossible.

The No-Strike Clause is another clause commonly introduced by management to limit the power of unions. It would prevent any work stoppages, slowdowns, or strikes from being authorized by the union for the duration of our contract. We are strongly against this clause, as this would leave the union no way to address serious grievances in a timely manner for the entirety of our contract. While there is a process for dealing with these issues in place, it can be very time-consuming, and we think it is extremely important that we as a union are able to maintain one of the most powerful tools we have for addressing issues in our workplace.

NSM also rejected in full our proposed Lactation Policy (asserting that their all-encompassing Management Rights clause would make this proposal obsolete) and our Stewards Rights proposal in full.

In preparation for writing our leave proposal, the union requested statistics on the usage of the various leaves offered by NSM and required by state and federal laws. New Seasons Director of Labor Relations, Corey Routh, reported that in 2022; 320 staff used FMLA, 314 used OFMLA, and 386 used the New Seasons Market medical leave (information on this leave can be found on page 47 of the current employee handbook)

Finally, and of most immediate concern, New Seasons rejected a temporary agreement drafted by the union that would allow attendance violations to drop off of one’s record after 6 months as opposed to the current 1 year. New Seasons bargaining team cited concerns over “piecemeal bargaining” as their reason for refusing to sign our agreement This comes after NSM made a change to its own attendance policy, but ONLY for non-union stores and non-bargaining unit employees.

Action Item!
If you are disappointed and upset with company leadership’s attempts to punish bargaining-unit employees for exercising their rights on the job and want to take action to compel New Seasons to extend this improvement to ALL staff members, then please touch base with a union organizer at your store.

April 27 — Session # 7

This session opened with a handful of counter-proposals from the NSLU bargaining team, as well as a few new proposals.

First, we issued a rebuttal on the company’s counter to the article on Employee Definitions, maintaining that 20-hours should be the threshold for an employee to be considered full-time, as it had been for a long time before.

Next, we shifted our focus to the article on the Rights of Union Stewards, providing more context and rationale for why we want NSLU shop stewards to have more extensive rights outlined in the CBA that go beyond simple Weingarten protections (New Seasons position is that the only rights that need be expressly stated are Weingarten rights). There are a number of helpful roles that union stewards can fulfill in addition to attending disciplinary meetings, such as being note-takers during ADA accommodation meetings between staff and management for instance. It is our position that stewards should be able to remain on the clock when conducting steward business, so as to ensure the protection and enforcement of the CBA on work time.

Following stewards rights, the bargaining team introduced new language to NSM’s counter-proposal to our Non-Discrimination Article, adding language that would bar staff from being discriminated against based on their housing status and their union membership.

As a separate proposal to New Seasons counter-proposal, we then moved to presenting our proposed article on Dispute Resolution (i.e. the grievance process). In contrast to NSM’s counter, this new proposal adds language for minor disputes to be remedied at the store level without being raised to a formal grievance. Formal grievances can be costly and difficult for both the union and the company to resolve - we hope that by allowing for an informal dispute resolution procedure, that workers will be able to bring issues to their managers. Furthermore, this proposed article designated the various representatives involved in the grievance process, describes the grievance procedure itself and what is needed of all parties, lays out timelines, and allows for a 50/50 split in costs of mediation/arbitration.

In addition to the counter-proposals, the union’s bargaining team also presented two new proposals on Bargaining Unit Work and an Attendance Policy.

Of note too, the NSLU bargaining team provided a counter to the extensive management rights article that NSM presented at the April 11 session. We presented a counter-proposal that was simplified, and more in line with what we have seen in other CBAs. It simply reads: “Except as modified by this Agreement, the Employer retains the responsibility and authority of managing the company’s business.”

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