Natural Grocers workers in Norman, Oklahoma, join UFCW union

Colorado-based retail chain denies employees’ claims of discrimination or mistreatment of pregnant women and new mothers. Get more details about the labor situation.

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Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage

Natural Grocers workers in Norman, Okla., voted to unionize by a slim margin, reports The Huntsville Item.

The move passed 11-9 to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1000. The union said it will use a group of employees to negotiate terms.

UFCW Local 1000 has not responded to a request for comment.

Workers want a better work environment, adequate healthcare, protection of pregnant workers’ rights, protection from employment at will and anti-union retaliation, accessible bereavement leave, and protection of annual raises.

Natural Grocers has been accused of using aggressive tactics to break up union efforts.

According to the Oklahoma City Free Press, Natural Grocers management pulled employees into two-hour “captive audience meetings” in storage closets rather than in an education room. It used the time to address the negative impacts of joining a union.

The Free Press also gave specific examples of the alleged abuse, like when human resources notified one former employee she was banned from all Natural Grocers locations after she was fired and attempted to hand a unionizer’s number to another employee.

“Natural Grocers provides an environment that empowers [associates] through regular engagement, nutrition education training, and opportunities for advancement,” Natural Grocers said in an emailed statement to Supermarket News, a New Hope Network sister website. “Our compensation and benefits packages are world class. Our low turnover rates and commitment to promotion from within are a testament to a strong, positive workplace culture. We also foster a culture of open communication and mutual respect in our stores.”

The Huntsville Item provided more details on Natural Grocers discriminating against pregnant workers. A current employee said six women became pregnant over eight years, and the retailer made it difficult for new mothers to take breaks to pump breast milk while only guaranteeing one week of paid leave. New mothers could request additional disability time if they filled out the proper paperwork.

Natural Grocers denied any mistreatment of pregnant workers and said it complies with the law of Oklahoma and goes above it by offering more generous leave and accommodation policies for pregnant mothers and bereaved employees.

“There were suggestions that Natural Grocers mistreats its workers, provides poor benefits, and/or fails to protect the rights of pregnant or bereaved crew members. These allegations couldn’t be further from the truth,” the grocer said. “We also have an open-door policy and encourage crew members to communicate any workplace concerns directly to our leadership, and address those concerns, and openly support collaboration with our crew members.”

Another former associate accused the store of aggressive anti-union actions that included interrogating workers and discipline over small infractions.

Workers are considering filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over unfair labor practices.

Natural Grocers, based in Lakewood, Colo., operates 168 locations in the U.S., according to its website.


This story originally appeared in Supermarket News, a New Hope Network sister website. Visit the site for more grocery trends and insights.

About the Author(s)

Bill Wilson, Senior Editor, Supermarket News

Supermarket News

Bill Wilson is the senior editor at Supermarket News, covering all things grocery and retail. He has been a journalist in the B2B industry for 25 years. He has received two Robert F. Boger awards for his work as a journalist in the infrastructure industry and has over 25 editorial awards total in his career. He graduated cum laude from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale with a major in broadcast communications.

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