July 19, 2017
Sabine Rhyne, General Manager, Brattleboro Food Co-op
Jeff Jones, UFCW, Local 1459
The management of the Brattleboro Food Co-op and UFCW Local 1459 representing the bargaining unit of the Co-op have reached agreement and ratified a new contract for the next three years. This collective bargaining agreement provides job stability for the union members while allowing the Co-op to continue its growth and community engagement. Interest-Based Problem Solving, employed in the bargaining sessions, will be used to deal with any new situations as they arise, as it proved to be a positive and effective tool for all concerned. All of the participants in the negotiations were trained by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service over multiple sessions prior to the negotiation process.
“I was pleased with the process that we used,” said Sabine Rhyne, general manager of the Brattleboro Food Co-op. “It was very respectful and thoughtful; we gained new insights from each other around the table. I think we laid a very good foundation for our work going forward, and I am very grateful to all who invested the time and energy to participate in this very important process. I am also very pleased that by the third year of this contract, average straight time hourly earnings will be in excess of $15.00 an hour. That is an important milestone for us, in our effort to provide good wages to our staff, in addition to a friendly and supportive workplace culture.”
“For me, the most radical part of the Interest-Based method is that it begins with the premise that both sides of the table ultimately want the same thing,” said Ruth Garbus, a Co-op employee and Union shop steward who also went through contract bargaining in 2014. “Coming to consensus is tough, but acknowledging and trusting that we share a common interest is a powerful idea that allows for connection and individual growth amidst conflict. It was a positive process.”
The Brattleboro Food Co-op employs 150 people, and has grown from a tiny retail space founded by a handful of community members in 1975 to an energy efficient 14,000 square foot building in the center of downtown Brattleboro owned by over 7,000 individuals. The Co-op returns over 37% of its revenue to the local economy, and supports a host of programs in partnership with schools, non-profits, and health organizations in the community.