“What’s disgusting? Union busting,” more than 50 ralliers chanted as they marched through the aisles in MOM’s Organic Market Saturday.
MOM’s Organic Market employees and community members stood outside of the market’s College Park location, protesting the company’s unfair treatment of union workers.
Melinda Knebel, who worked at MOM’s for almost two years, said they were fired from MOM’s in February for organizing and talking about unionizing at work.
“I’d never done anything wrong. I never broke any policy, fully only legally advocated for the union, yet they treated me so disrespectfully,” Knebel said.
Employees at MOM’s cited several unfair workplace practices, such as no paid time off for an employee’s first two years, limited sick time, unlivable wages, understaffing and dangerous workplace environments.
“People got injuries all the time. You can see all these scars and burns, people hurt their backs and had their teeth chipped and just all kinds of horrible accidents,” Knebel said.
MOM’s employees at the College Park location amped up discussions about forming a union in summer 2022, Knebel said. In December 2022, 80 percent of voting employees voted to unionize.
For almost a year, MOM’s employees, represented by UFCW Local 400, have been negotiating a contract.
Maydha Kapur, a staff organizer for UFCW Local 400, said the union has met with the company twice every six weeks since March, but both sides have been unable to reach an agreement.
MOM’s has proposed adjustments to the contract that limit worker’s rights, including the right for workers to walk out, according to Kapur.
“Union contracts are about expanding workers’ rights, not decreasing them,” Kapur said. “So what’s on the table right now is just completely indefensible.”
In a future contract, Laura Jackson, a MOM’s employee and a member of the union’s bargaining committee, said she wants a seniority structure for raises, livable wages and contract protections for workers if the company is sold.
Like Knebel, Jackson also alleges discrimination from MOM’s in retaliation for participating in union activity.
Jackson said she received a great performance review and was offered a management position.
After passing out pro-union stickers to community members outside of the store, Jackson said she was disciplined by company HR a week later.
UFCW Local 400’s communications director Johnathan Williams said that MOM’s is selectively punishing union members.
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 filed a signed charge against MOM’s Organic Market to the National Labor Relations Board.
Non-union MOM’s stores received wages and improved benefits a week after the workers in College Park unionized, Williams said.
“That’s not only wrong, it’s illegal,” Williams said.
In a statement to The Diamondback, MOM’s Organic Market chief brand ambassador Christine Messier said the company supports its employees’ unionization efforts.
“MOM’s fully supports its employees’ right to organize, and uniformly honors and complies with its obligations under the law,” the statement read.
MOM’s declined to comment on allegations about the proposals made by Knebel and Kapur “out of respect for the bargaining process.”
While employees are not boycotting the company yet, Jackson said that it could be the next step.
Moving forward, Jackson hopes the community will help MOM’s employees by emailing MOM’s CEO Scott Nash to ask for a fair contract.
“The whole point is to get them to actually listen to the workers who will make the money every day,” Jackson said.