Staffers from Foodlink Inc. are banding together to form a union, according to a statement Tuesday.
A majority of Foodlink employees have joined together to form Foodlink United with Office & Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 153 in response to “increased demand of food services, health risks from COVID-19 and continued understaffing,” according to the statement. The members of Foodlink United have asked Foodlink management to voluntarily recognize the union today, with a deadline for response by Thursday, Oct. 28, at 5 p.m.
“In the event that management doesn’t recognize Foodlink United, OPEIU Local 153 will file for an official election on their behalf with the National Labor Relations Board,” according to the statement.
“Foodlink represents a diverse group of compassionate people who all believe in a common mission: to end hunger and build healthier communities. Caring about and investing in people is what we do and who we are — and that starts within the workplace we share,” said Foodlink President and CEO Julia Tedesco. “Unions serve an important role to protect workers, particularly in companies where profit is the bottom line and people are not put first. Although I do not believe we need a union to accomplish our shared goals, I hear, respect and honor the voices of those team members who feel differently. Ultimately, it is my responsibility to ensure that every voice is heard.”
“No one is more committed to Foodlink’s mission of ending hunger than we are, and forming a union demonstrates our commitment to Foodlink’s values. We put our lives on the line to feed our neighbors during a global pandemic. We have a deep and intimate understanding of our programs and services and what we need to be successful in carrying them out,” Foodlink United members said in the statement. “We have more than 130 combined years of service to this organization; it is this expertise and experience that drives our collective decision-making. We are forming a union to ensure safety, stability, solidarity and a seat at the table.”
Tedesco noted that in recent years, Foodlink has proactively increased pay and covers 100 percent of employees’ health and dental insurance premiums.
“We have expanded bonuses, paid time off, hardship supports and committed to being as flexible and accommodating as possible during the ongoing public health crisis. We have increased investments in employee safety, career empowerment, professional development and training,” she added. “Lastly, we began a two-year process with the formation of three internal teams — comprising people from all levels of the organization — that examine our practices through the lens of equity.
“So much of this work has been driven by collaboration and direct dialogue at Foodlink,” she said. “I fully believe we can continue to solve our challenges — and best serve our communities — through direct dialogue and a fierce adherence to our values, mission and call to justice.”
This is not the first time Foodlink has had a union. From late 1993 until March 1995, prior to Tedesco’s appointment as president and CEO, Foodlink employees were part of Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union. The SEIU withdrew from the nonprofit in 1995 to stave off a decertification vote, then Local 1199 President Bruce Popper told the RBJ at the time.