Union workers protest at Mom’s Organic Market
By Daranee Balachandar
Almost 10 months after unionizing, MOM’s Organic Market College Park employees chanted, “What’s disgusting? Union busting!!” in front of the store on Rhode Island Avenue.
The rally, held on Sept. 30, was organized to protest management practices that some employees believe discriminate against union members.
Jonathan Williams, communications director for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 (UFCW), a union that represents grocery store employees, including those at MOM’s Organic Market, said that workers at MOM’s College Park have been facing retaliation from management since they voted to unionize in December 2022.
“You know, if you express support for the union, you are more likely to be written up, disciplined or even fired, which we believe is intentional,” Williams told the College Park Here & Now.
Laura “LJ” Jackson, an employee who has worked at MOM’s for about a year and a half, said, “I had a stellar performance review — exceeded expectations. Down the line, got a raise, was asked to go into management. A week later, we stickered outside of the store and then that following week I received a multi point disciplinary action for things that every manager and every employee does in the store on a daily basis.”
Jackson said that the College Park MOM’s is one of three unionized stores which have encountered discriminatory practices against its employees. She added that benefits are being withheld from workers at all three of these stores.
According to Jackson, the break room TV plays promotions of pay increases on federal holidays that are available only for staff working in non-union stores.
According to Williams, at least 50 people attended the College Park Mom’s rally. Employees carrying signs saying “Stop Discrimination Against Union Workers” walked around the Hollywood Farmers Market near Mom’s. The group later lined up in single file and walked into the store.
Community leaders and elected officials, including state Sen. Jim Rosapepe, also attended the rally. Rosapepe spoke at the rally in support of the unionized workers and later spoke with the College Park Here & Now about the protest.
“The law is, workers can join a union if they want to. They don’t have to join a union, but they want to and here at MOM’s in College Park, they want to join UFCW, and they have a right to do that,” he said.
When asked to comment about the rally, MOM’s Organic Market management said in an email, “MOM’s fully supports its employees’ right to organize, and uniformly honors and complies with its obligations under the law. Out of respect for the bargaining process, the Company will refrain from commenting on the proposals that the parties have exchanged thus far, but is looking forward to reaching an agreement that is mutually beneficial for the employees and the Company.”
Williams said in a phone conversation that the union workers and UFCW have been in talks with the company and have tried to negotiate a first union contract.
“These workers unionized in large part to have a voice and a say in their pay and benefits and working conditions,” he said. “[The company’s] proposal has been to dictate pay, and workers have no say in it. And if they want to change pay at any time they can,” adding that the same holds true for benefits. “So, they are essentially proposing a union contract that is not really a contract and doesn’t really hold management to any kind of standard or accountability,” Williams noted. “And that’s simply unacceptable.”