Whole Foods goes back to non-union beef

Related story: "Whole Foods cancels non-union beef"

Pro-union Gov. asked to back UFW off card-check demand

Ranchers-members of Country Natural Beef received some good news Monday Monday when Whole Foods Market officials reversed an earlier request asking the ranchers to stop placing cattle with Beef Northwest feedlot.

"We need to let the public know Whole Foods will continue taking Country Natural Beef cattle, including cattle fed at the Beef northwest feedlot," said Stacy Davies, marketing team leader for Country Natural Beef.

He said the United Farm Workers and Beef Northwest, a feedlot operating company headquartered in North Powder, have been locked in a labor dispute for some time and are working to resolve differences over how a vote will be conducted of non-management employees at the Beef Northwest feedlot in Boardman - where Country Natural Beef is fed.

United Farm Workers has been putting tremendous pressure on Whole Foods to intervene. They were getting thousands of emails per day promoted by UFW seeking to force Country Natural beef to stop placing cattle bound for Whole Foods Markets at the Beef Northwest feedlot.

In response to the union pressure tactics, Whole Foods officials requested in May that the 120 rancher-members of Country Natural Beef, including 16 in Baker County stop placing their hormone- and antibiotic-free cattle at the Beef Northwest feedlot.

That request was reiterated as recently last week by a Whole Foods spokesperson. However, on Monday, a new Whole Foods spokesperson, Livva Letton, announced that the request to stop placing cattle at the Beef Northwest feedlot has been withdrawn.

Livvy said the original request asking CNB ranchers to place their cattle with another feedlot "was an effort to get UFW to stop punishing our brand to pressure Beef Northwest" to accept their conditions for feedlot workers to vote on union representation by UFW.

"Unfortunately that request was widely misunderstood as a sign of our support for UFW. We have consequently withdrawn our request, so Country Natural Beef is continuing to place cattle with the Beef Northwest feedlot," Livvy said. "It was a request we made for them to look at, but they never stopped putting cattle in the feedlot, and we have not stopped selling their beef."

"We didn't intend our action to signal support for UFW or Beef Northwest," Livvy said. "While we have compassion for farmworkers, we can't step in and settle that dispute," Livvy said.

Davies said representatives of Country Natural Beef explained to Whole Foods officials that they fully support allowing non-management employees at Beef Northwest's Boardman feedlot to vote on union representation, provided the election is administered by a neutral party and conducted by secret ballot, so there's no undue pressure on workers to vote one way or the other.

Davies said CNB representative also convinced Whole Foods officials that it would take some time to find another feedlot with the equipment, personnel, expertise and willingness to separate and finish their cattle according to the humane requirements and in a hormone- and antiobiotic-free environment.

"We convinced them that moving the cattle was not an option," Davies said.

"As someone who buys their (CNB) product, we support what they are doing on this issue, but we are not taking any further role than that," Livvy said.

She said the all-natural method of raising cattle and humane animal treatment requirements followed by rancher-members of country Natural Beef and the Beef Northwest feedlot are "right in line" with the vision of Whole Foods Markets, which is headquartered in Texas.

"It's high-quality beef. It's free of antibiotics, and growth hormones, and the ranchers in that co-op treat their cattle so well, all the way up through the feedlot," Livvy said. "Whole Foods is very committed to the treatment of farm animals."

Union insists on no-vote, card-check recognition

Davies said Country Natural Beef, with the support of its major customers, including Whole Foods, Burgerville and Seasons markets, have requested that Ore. Gov. Ted Kulongoski step in and set up a neutral process to allow Beef Northwest workers to vote in a fair election within the next two weeks or CNB will ask the National Labor Relations Board to step in and help resolve the labor dispute between UFW and Beef Northwest.

Davies said in the absence of state labor laws governing union organizing in agriculture, Kulongoski as the state's chief executive officer is the one person with authority to step in and help resolve the dispute. He said the governor has been asked to set up a neutral election through the executive branch, or direct the judicial branch to do it.

If a fair election process isn't set up within the next few weeks, Davies said a lawsuit against the union for damages caused by the union's targeting of third parties not directly involved in the labor dispute, may be initiated.



Unknown said...

This is yet another example of the unions attempting to bully and intimidate when they don't get their way.
It is amazing to me that in this day and age when we are so sensitive to workplace harassment, children bullying each other on the playground and other forms of discrimination or coercion that we, as a society, allow these kinds of tactics to occur.
Sadly, not only do they occur but they are not denounced by the very politicians who should be doing something. Speaker Jeff Merkley, who is currently running for US Senate, should be addressing this issue since he claims to be for the ordinary working person and that is who is getting hurt when unions use intimidation as a negotiating tool.
But Jeff Merkley won't say anything because he supports this kind of behavior and he receives large donations from the unions to forward their agenda.
An agenda that includes passing such harmful legislation as the mis-named Employee Free Choice Act in Congress if he's elected.
The EFCA would take away a worker's right to a private ballot in the workplace when they are voting to unionize opening them up to peer pressure, intimidation and threats.
The right to a private ballot when voting is a fundamental American Right but Jeff Merkley and the unions who support him seem to have forgotten that in their quest for power and money. We need to make sure that Jeff Merkley doesn't have the chance to vote on the Employee Free Choice Act. Ever.

Unknown said...

First of all, this article completes neglects the fact that CNB was running an anti-union campaign and implicitly threatening workers with termination if they favored a union.
Secondly, when EFCA passes, it will allow workers to sign a card on their own time, or choose not to sign. Claims that the union will "intimidate" is childish - unlike a company, a union can't threaten a worker with termination, deportation (for undocumented workers), or loss of benefits or wages - all of the things a company often does illegally use as threats to make sure workers vote no. The card is the same as a vote, done on the workers own time. If they don't want the union, then they don't sign.

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