Local labor leaders, community members and religious leaders will gather in Janesville this afternoon at a rally to show support for union workers at Woodman's Food Market Inc.
Citizen Action of Wisconsin said it is organizing the rally in support of Woodman's workers who are members of United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1473, "who are fighting to keep their union jobs."
Woodman's stores have featured union labor for generations, "But now Phil Woodman (company president and chief executive officer) has hired a high-priced lawyer and a consultant from the East Coast to try and drive out the union at his stores. The union has filed numerous unfair labor practice charges against Woodman's for its illegal actions against workers, and additional charges are expected," the group stated.
The complaints by the union against Woodman's have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
"They are allegations of terminating people because they are union supporters in the stores. They had supervisors actually circulating (union) decertification petitions. This is a very long list of serious charges," said Robert Craig, director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.
The UFCW Local 1473 filed complaints on March 14 and 18, alleging approximately 27 violations of federal labor laws by Woodman's, including:
- Supervisors and managers involvement in passing the decertification petitions.
- Threatening employees with deportation and other unspecified acts of reprisal if they supported the union and informing them not to talk in support of the union.
- Retaliating and discriminating against employees, including reducing an employee's hours.
Informing employees to lie about their whereabouts in order to avoid testimony to the NLRB.
- Terminating an employee because of his open support for the union.
On April 22, the UFCW Local 1473 filed an additional 28 complaints against Woodman's with the NLRB.
Union officials said the company and the union have had a mutually beneficial and profitable relationship for more than 50 years, but that relationship began to deteriorate in recent years.
Woodman's has had both an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) and a unionized workforce for years, Craig said.
"Even though employee-owned sounds like employees are running the store, that's not the case," Craig said.
Today's rally will take place at Palmer Park in Janesville at 4:30 p.m.
The Janesville-based company recently opened a new store in Oak Creek, its first in Milwaukee County.
Phil Woodman could not be reached for comment today.