Workers at a “socialist paradise” food co-op in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope say they’re tired of being oppressed by their bourgeoisie management and are demanding that they be allowed to unionize, per the New York Post.
The Park Slope Food Co-op is supposed to be a safe haven from capitalist grocery stores, where member-volunteers can put in a few hours of work a month in exchange for 20% to 40% off the price of “low-cost, environmentally friendly fare.” But the co-op also has around 75 employees, who say the realities of the socialist system are a far cry from Marx’s utopia.
“Employees of the Brooklyn food collective recently alleged unfair labor practices by the co-op in a filing with the US National Labor Relations Board,” the Post reports, adding that, in response, the company’s “iron-fisted management” “threatened and punished those who support the effort” and suggested that workers looking to form a union could look elsewhere for employment.
“Most of the employees were afraid to provide details of their union battle, telling The Post that they feared their bosses would crack down on them. But one source said the overworked employees are demanding more staffing, better scheduling practices and more transparency from co-op brass,” says the Post.
Management, which consists of six individuals who are also part of the co-op’s roster of 75 employees, reportedly wants to bust efforts to create a union in order to preserve the image that the socialist co-op is a worker’s paradise. Management says they support the effort to organizse, but are fighting to make sure that the socialist principle of collective decision-making is preserved.
“Following Coop principles, we would like to see that any decision by our staff will be made democratically,” the group of six said in a statement, according to Patch.com. That means management would prefer to see all employees, customers, and members of the co-op participate in a vote to unionize.
The co-op dates back to 1973, and is considered one of the oldest, continuously operating food co-ops in the country. A former member described the shop to the Post as “something between an earthy-crunchy health food haven and a Soviet-style reeducation camp.”
In the past, ironically, the co-op’s management has announced boycotts against American companies who they claim employ unfair labor practices. At times, they’ve resisted selling Coca-Cola, Domino sugar, and products from a local Kosher bakery. And in 2008, management began an effort to rid the store of all Israeli-produced products in solidarity with those fighting against the “occupation of Palestine.”
Both the Post and Patch report that this isn’t the first time the co-op’s bourgeoisie management and customer base have been exposed. In 2017, two of the six managers were accused of dipping into the store’s coffers to fund expensive flights to Europe, and in 2011, an internal investigation revealed that some of the co-op’s “members” were actually household staff of Brooklyn’s wealthier families, who were being shuttled to the co-op to work shifts so that their employers could recieve the grocery savings without having to get their hands dirty.
The employees’ claims will have to go in front of the National Labor Relations Board. They are being represented by the Retail, Wholesale Department Store Workers Union.