LOGAN SQUARE — A small group of Dill Pickle Co-Op workers is taking to the streets Friday afternoon to protest the recent firing of two workers, and to demand that management recognize their union and give them more hazard pay amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But general manager I’Talia McCarthy said management has been doing everything they can to protect workers during the crisis, including implementing new safety measures, and that they do support the workers’ right to unionize.
Jessico Dickerson, a Dill Pickle worker since 2013, is among the aggrieved workers who will be handing out flyers outside of a co-op grocery store at 2746 N. Milwaukee Ave. on Friday afternoon.
Dickerson said the public display is “not an attack on management.”
“It’s about upholding our cooperative values and doing the right thing in the face of a crisis,” they said. “This is about making our voices heard and moving toward a democratic work place. We’d like to work with management in the hope that we can negotiate our demands.”
Dickerson said seven workers have been trying to get co-op management and its board of directors to recognize their union for the past several weeks. So far, they have refused to do so, according to Dickerson and their group.
The Logan Square co-op has about 65 employees. Dickerson said only 33 of those employees are eligible to join the union, but McCarthy could not confirm that number.
“More than ever we need democracy. We need everybody’s voice at the table,” Dickerson said.
Dickerson said management claims to support the workers’ right to unionize, but refuses to acknowledge that the group has been represented by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) since March 2017.
“Despite recent actions, where a clear majority of workers have shown interest in union representation, management continues to ignore their requests to bargain and to recognize their NLRB union certification,” the news release reads.
McCarthy disputes that account. She said the only reason the union hasn’t moved forward is because the workers haven’t gotten enough of their coworkers on board. Only seven of 65 workers have signed up.
“We’re trying to provide as much support for our staff as possible. Obviously we will support them during this time of protesting,” she said.
“It’s not up to us. It’s up to the entire staff to make that decision.”
Dickerson said a lot of the workers are new, and worry that supporting the union will put their jobs in jeopardy.
The staffers and management also disagree about working conditions.
Dill Pickle management has implemented new measures to keep workers and customers safe during the pandemic. Only 15 customers are allowed to shop in the store at one time. Protective barriers have been installed at the registers. All workers are required to wear masks and gloves. Curbside pickup is now an option.
But Dickerson said it took weeks for management to implement those measures, and without a recognized union, they don’t have a say in how the store is being run during the crisis.
McCarthy, however, said management and the board has “worked absolutely tirelessly to make our store one of the safest places to shop.” She said Dill Pickle was one of the first stores in the city to install cash register barriers.
As part of Friday’s action, the Dill Pickle workers are demanding more hazard pay, which is additional pay for performing dangerous work. They were given a $2-an-hour pay raise, which is what workers for large grocery companies like Amazon and Whole Foods were given. But the workers say that’s not enough. Some independent grocers have given $6- and $7-an-hour pay raises.
The workers are also using the action to speak out against management for its recent firing of two workers, Dickerson said.
McCarthy said she couldn’t comment on personnel matters of individual employees that have been fired.
“Those are legally confidential and I’ve been advised not to speak on those matters,” she said.
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