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Foodlink forces more formal, longer process to unionization

Alex Crichton

Workers who want to unionize at Foodlink will have to take a longer route in that process.

The president & CEO of the local food bank organization, Julia Tedesco, released a statement on Thursday saying that Foodlink will not grant the workers’ request for voluntary recognition of a union.

Tedesco said that management respects the right of Foodlink employees to decide whether they want a union, and also recognizes the importance of “a fair, transparent and democratic process.” She said that all eligible employees deserve the opportunity to cast their own vote and have their voices heard in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board.

Fatima Srayi is a Foodlink worker who is among those advocating for unionization, and she said that management’s decision means it will take about six weeks for the more formal election process filed with the NLRB. Srayi said that a majority of employees at Foodlink support the formation of a union and they were hoping management would have recognized that right now.

“That will be a process in and of itself, but our job really, inside Foodlink, as brothers and sisters of Foodlink, is to inform our employees about their work rights, to not be coerced by our leadership,” said Srayi, who indicated that it’s been difficult for workers to be able to discuss formation of a union while in common areas at Foodlink.

Foodlink officials said that they respect the workers’ rights to communicate with each other for and against a union.

Workers have said that unionization is needed for a variety of reasons including health risks from COVID-19, increased demand for food services and chronic understaffing.

Srayi emphasized that the workers trying to organize still support the kind of work that Foodlink is doing.

“We love our community, we work here because we love our community. And we don’t want to end any programs. We want to make everything function better,” Srayi said.

The employees who want to unionize at Foodlink are looking for other improvements as well, including issues involving safety and job security. Foodlink management said that it has proactively increased pay and benefits  and made investments in employee safety and training.

The unionization effort is being organized with the help of OPEIU, the Office and Professional Employees International Union.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.