The decision of the Harvard Cooperative Society's employees to reject a union's bid to represent them in contract negotiations surprised few people. What raised eyebrows was the large margin of the vote to turn down the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).
Coop managers and some of the store's employees called the vote an accurate reflection of workers' desires, saying that most of the establishment's employees voted against the union because they believed that it could not improve on the wages and benefits the Coop already provides its workers. The final tally was 273 votes against union representation and 156 for.
Workers at all six Coop branches and the store's warehouse took time off from work Thursday, March 26, to cast ballots in makeshift voting booths set up by representatives of the National Labor Relations Board.
Throughout the week before the vote, Coop officials worked in all stores to convince employees that unionization was not in their interests.
One employee said the meetings were cordial, informative, and no more intimidating than the union's efforts to meet with workers and explain its viewpoint. But other employees and union officials protested that the company intimidated workers and coerced them to vote against the management.
Union officials' belief that the Coop influenced its employees unfairly led them to file objections with the NLRB. asking for the election to be held again. Although it seems unlikely that holding the election again could reverse the employees' decision. William T. McDonough, a UFCW organizer, said this week that he had no plans to abandon the organization effort and the signatures on more than 300 union authorization cards convinced him that the store confused many employees into voting against their original intentions.
But John Finney, another union official, said filing objections was largely a matter of long-term political action and added that he hoped the Coop would be ready for another union election during the next few years.