Ben & Jerry’s Paves Way for Union at Vermont Store

Ben & Jerry’s announced Friday that it had reached an agreement with workers at its flagship store in Burlington, Vt., on a set of rules to ensure a fair union election, after the workers’ announcement last week that they were seeking to organize.

The agreement is likely to pave the way for the store to become the only unionized Ben & Jerry’s location in the United States. All of the nearly 40 workers eligible to join a union at the store have indicated their support for doing so.

The company indicated that the agreement could make the store a better place to work. “This should be regarded as a step in solidarity in the spirit of constant improvement towards a fair, inclusive and equitable workplace,” it said in a statement.

Rebeka Mendelsohn, a shift manager who has helped lead the organizing campaign, said she hoped the agreement would encourage workers at other Ben & Jerry’s stores to consider unionizing.

The company is known for the liberal image of its co-founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who last year joined the company in pushing back against the sale of ice cream distribution rights by the brand’s parent corporation, Unilever, to a licensee that operated in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Ben & Jerry’s has agreed to provide the union organizing the Burlington store, Workers United, with equal time to discuss the campaign and equal space to post material in the store; to refrain from making disparaging comments about the union; to refrain from threatening or retaliating against workers who seek to unionize; and to resolve accusations of retaliation through an arbitrator.

In addition, if the workers unionize and the two sides don’t settle on a contract within six months, they can mutually seek mediation or arbitration.

Ms. Mendelsohn said that while some workers had discussed unionizing for months, they were spurred to act when managers said the store would not collect tips on the company’s annual Free Cone Day in early April. Most of the workers are paid only slightly more than the state minimum wage of $13.18 an hour, she said, and tips are important income.

Managers reversed course and allowed tipping that day.


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