UFCW 655 members at Bloom Medicinals strike, demand first contract

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By SHERI GASSAWAY
Missouri Correspondent

UFCW LOCAL 655 President David Cook speaks to Local 655-represented employees at Bloom Medicinals in O’Fallon, who walked off the job Jan. 2 for a one-day strike to show their dismay in the company’s continued use of anti-union tactic and refused to bargain a first contract. – Labor Tribune photo

O’Fallon, MO – Employees at Bloom Medicinals represented by UCFW Local 655 walked off the job Jan. 2 for a one-day strike to show their dismay at the company’s continued use of anti-union tactics straight out of the Starbuck’s corporate playbook.

The employees voted to join Local 655 last July. However, the company – like Starbuck’s – is dragging its feet and refusing to bargain with the workers’ designated union representatives. It is also enforcing workplace policies without bargaining with UFCW officials, which is a violation of Labor regulations.

‘THEIR LEGAL RIGHT’
“The workers at Bloom voted to join a union family, and their company has continued to ignore that choice,” said Local 655 President David Cook. “All they want is to sit at the bargaining table with their employer and negotiate a union contract, which is their legal right. If Bloom continues to ignore those wishes and create arbitrary policies that negatively impact their workers, they are going to continue to see their workers push back.”

The employees were joined on the strike line at 6700 Highway N by many Local 655 partners as well as other union members and Labor allies. After the walkout, the employees presented a signed list of demands to management. They are asking that Bloom:

  • Negotiate a fair collective bargaining agreement.
  • Lift its ban on UFCW 655 staff from the Bloom O’Fallon premises.
  • Increase wages to $25 an hour.
  • Provide proper training on HIPPA and safety precautions to employees as required by state law.
  • Raise salaried employees to $65,000 a year.
  • Maintain a fair and clear accrued occurrence absentee policy and a standard of progressive discipline that is administered equally for all employees.
  • Increase paid time-off.
  • Implement bereavement leave.
  • Increase sick days.

MISSED OPPORTUNITY
For employee Amber Olson, the company’s disorganization and lack of leave policies caused her to miss seeing her mother for the last time. Olson told management in the interview process that her mother had been ill and that she may need to leave town to go see her.

“It seemed in my interview that it was going to be OK, but after I started working for the company, I found out we have no policy on bereavement leave,” Olson said. “It’s confusing when you have a verbal confirmation by the general manager that says one thing, the standard operation procedure binder that says something else and the online training courses that say something completely different.

“It was a huge issue for me personally and at the end of the day, I feel like my hesitancy – because I was afraid to be fired – is the reason I lost my opportunity to see my mom for the last time – all over a $17-an-hour job. No amount of money is worth that.”

WORK WITHOUT COMPENSATION
Most recently, Bloom announced that employees would be required to work without compensation prior to clocking in – a clear violation of the law. Local 655 has filed an Unfair Labor Practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

“I applaud the members’ tenacity and determination,” said Sean Shannon, the Local 655 organizer assisting the employees. “They came to us with the list of demands and the idea for today’s action.”

UFCW Local 655 is the state’s largest private-sector local and the only union to organize cannabis workers in Missouri. It represents some 9,000 members working in the 46 counties throughout the eastern half of Missouri. Local 655’s members are employed in food stores (its largest single division), shoe manufacturing, packinghouses, distribution centers and medical cannabis facilities.


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