Ben & Jerry's said Friday it had reached a deal with its Burlington flagship store workers on a set rules for a fair election of unions, following the announcement by workers last week that their goal was to organize.
This agreement will likely pave the path for the store becoming the only Ben & Jerry's in the United States to be unionized. Nearly 40 of the workers at the store who are eligible to become unionized have expressed their support.
The company said that the agreement would make the store an even better place to work. In a press release, the company said that this should be seen as a sign of solidarity and a commitment to a fairer, more inclusive workplace.
Rebeka Melndelsohn is a manager at Ben & Jerry's who helped to lead the organizing campaign. She hopes that the agreement will encourage other workers in Ben & Jerry's shops to consider unionizing.
The company's liberal image is attributed to its co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. Last year, they joined forces with the company to protest the sale of distribution rights for ice cream by Unilever (the brand's parent company) to a licensed operator in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Ben & Jerry's agreed to give the union organizing the Burlington shop, Workers United equal time and space to discuss the campaign, and to post materials in the store. They also agreed not to make disparaging remarks about the union, to refrain form threatening or retaliating workers who wish to unionize, and to settle any allegations of retaliation by an arbitrator.
If the unionized workers and the two parties are unable to reach an agreement within six months, then they may seek mutual mediation or arbitration.
Mendelsohn stated that although some workers had been discussing unionizing for several months, they were prompted to take action when the managers announced the store wouldn't collect tips during the annual Free Cone Day of the company in early April. She said that most workers earn only a little more than the minimum wage in the state of $13.18 per hour and that tips are an important source of income.
The managers reversed their decision and allowed tipping on that day.