Burlington, VT – Nearly 40 employees of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream store in Burlington filed for a union election on Monday, following in the footsteps of service industry campaigns at Starbucks and Amazon.
The so-called scoopers at the Burlington, Vt., shop said they have formed an organizing committee and petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for an election. They said they have the support of the upstate New York & Vermont chapter of Workers United, the union that started the Starbucks unionization campaign in Buffalo, New York.
“I think of this union as a sign of respect for Ben & Jerry’s,” said Rebeka Mendelsohn, a shift manager and catering lead, in a statement. “We’re a company that stands for social justice rights and equity, and I want to ensure that this message is translated to all levels of employment.”
Ben & Jerry’s, now owned by consumer goods giant Unilever, said organizers just presented the plan to the company Sunday night. The company has a reputation for producing eccentric flavors and supporting social justice causes.
It’s ”an important issue to us, we’re aware of it, and we’re actively working on it,” Ben & Jerry’s spokesman Sean Greenwood wrote in an email.
The drive for unionization at the company will be a test of its values and establish a seat at the table with management, according to union leaders. The shop employees’ letter to management says they want a voice in key decisions over issues such as salaries and health care costs.
“We are taught from the beginning of our employment that equality and justice are integral rights of ours as people. But what happens when Vermont’s Finest are continuously left out of these conversations?”
The treatment of drug use in the store bathroom, including a summer 2022 overdose, and the addition of job duties without pay increases are other issues that workers are raising.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.