Documents obtained by Workday Minnesota and verified by multiple anonymous sources, who are knowledgeable and engaged in hiring practices and decisions, allege that Eastside Food Co-op and Seward Community Co-op collude to preemptively deny employment to workers. When targeted workers, deemed ineligible by Eastside, apply to Seward they are denied an interview. In a rarer case a manager prepared an offer package that was denied by human resources thereby obstructing the managers ability to hire the worker.

Anonymous sources submitted and verified evidence showing that Seward’s ApplicantPro online portal identified ineligible workers with the note, “Eastside coop does not recommend we hire this person.” This designation furthermore means that the applicant is deemed ineligible to be hired at Seward.

The scope and depth of the designation is unclear but has afflicted numerous current and former Eastside employees applying to Seward. It is unclear if Seward provides the same information to Eastside.

Eastside Co-op General Manager John Lacaria said “no” when asked whether he was aware that Seward had the note “Eastside coop does not recommend we hire this person” in their ApplicantPro system. Lacaria also clarified that when called for a reference they only offer information related to confirmation of and length of employment and pay. It is therefore unclear who at Eastside is giving broader information to Seward. Seward did not respond to multiple attempts for comment.

Franklin store employee and Board of Directors candidate Nahrissa Rush responded to allegations of preemptive rejection of employment, “It is appalling and completely lacking the integrity that the co-op claims to possess. It also goes against the value the co-op claims it has for its employees which is deplorable to say the least.” Rush furthermore stated, “workers have been afraid to speak on working conditions due to fear of retaliation. This blacklist validates those fears and creates an incredibly hostile and unsafe work environment where staff don’t feel valued or feel like they are able to advocate for themselves or others.”

One former Eastside employee, whose name has been changed for anonymity, Taylor, believes that they were deemed ineligible by Eastside because of their union activism with UFCW 653, status as a bargaining committee member during last year’s unionization drive and successful contract ratification. Taylor was fired for “time theft” (arriving to work late) and “dishonesty” shortly before the contract ratification vote. The fired worker is concerned that private information was released to Seward without their consent.

The same source with knowledge of the HR systems corroborated by email and explained that Taylor had an offer package assembled that was denied once HR had either contacted Eastside or noticed the note in the application file. That same source had seen at least two other strong applicants in ApplicantPro that later disappeared from the hiring pool due to the same designation.

These revelation comes on the heels of a protracted contract negotiation and a recent delay of the contract ratification vote because of Seward management’s objections over language. The ratification was scheduled for Friday, August 17, and it has not been rescheduled.

Similar to Taylor, members of the bargaining committee at Seward have been experiencing pressure from management. Of 10 bargaining members one was fired, one has recently been suspended with pay and one without, and another is awaiting a disciplinary meeting. Union activists further report that bargaining team members who have received disciplinary action over the last several months are either queer and/or women.

Bargaining team member Amy Swenson explains that, “I am really shocked by these revelations especially if union activists have been targeted. I think the board and management at Seward should immediately resign. This absolutely needs to be investigated, Seward management signed a neutrality contract. None of what they’re doing is neutral.”

Workers have organized a rally for the next board meeting on August 28th, 2018. You can find information here.

Note: Workday Minnesota Editor Filiberto Nolasco Gomez is a Seward Board Member.

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