MOM’s Organic Market employees in Hampden vote overwhelmingly to unionize

Published on: August 26, 2022 at 8:52 pm EDT

Updated on: August 26, 2022 at 9:28 pm EDT

MOM’s Organic Market Rotunda in Hampden on Friday, Aug. 26, 2022.

Employees of the MOM’s Organic Market at the Rotunda shopping center have voted to unionize.

The election, held Friday at the Rotunda, means staff at the store will be represented by Teamsters Local 570. Teamsters also represent thousands of Costco workers.

According to union organizer Moe Jackson, vice president of Teamsters Local 570, the final result of the secret ballot vote was 58 “yes” votes to 5 opposed.

The vote, which the National Labor Relations Board will certify in seven days, follows a monthslong organizing effort by staff members at the Hampden grocery store, who say they are fighting for higher wages and time off.

“We are doing this because we want to keep working there,” said Kelsey Oppenheimer, a Charles Village resident who has been employed by MOM’s since 2020, prior to the vote. “But we need to be able to pay our rent.”

Natalia De Oliveira, a 24-year-old employee of the company who started with the store in early 2021, had estimated she was one of about 50 store employees at the 80-employee store to support unionization.

Representatives for MOM’s did not respond Friday to a phone call and email from The Baltimore Banner. The company’s official Twitter account posted a list of “hourly team member benefits,” including a $15 minimum wage.

MOM’s operates multiple other locations in the state, including stores in Timonium and White Marsh. Oppenheimer said employees from “quite a few” other MOM’s stores had reached out to the Hampden cohort to express interest in organizing.

Pro-union MOM’s employees rallied outside the Hampden location Tuesday and said many shoppers expressed surprise that they weren’t already unionized. “They give off the impression they treat their workers extremely well,” Oppenhemier said of the company.

But in reality, workers said, the company’s salaries haven’t kept up with inflation, even as prices on its own store shelves have risen rapidly. In addition, workers want better sick leave and more paid time off as well as job security. Although the company offers perks such as free lunch and free coffee, De Oliveira said, “everything can be taken away without a union contract.”

Union supporters had accused MOM’s of “union-busting” tactics that flew in the face of the store’s feel-good image, including hiring two third-party consultants who met with employees to try to persuade them not to unionize.

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Among those advocating for the workers was Baltimore City Councilwoman Odette Ramos, whose district includes the Rotunda. Ramos said she encouraged staff members to unionize after hearing concerns about their working conditions during the pandemic.

In early conversations with staff during shopping trips, Ramos said she heard, “They didn’t have PPE, they didn’t feel supported.” The Democratic council member added, “I thought, ‘This is crazy. Don’t you have a union?’”

In contrast, Ramos said, workers at two Giant grocery stores in her district “were having similar issues, but they had a union that was advocating for them.” Giant workers are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

Recent years have seen a broader push toward unionization in workplaces such as Starbucks, where a Midtown-Belvedere location recently voted to form a union. To Ramos, the challenges of working during a pandemic demonstrated that belonging to a union is “not just an economic issue, it’s a health and safety issue.”

At MOM’s, many of the supporters of unionization are young — 25 to 30 years old, says De Oliveira — reflecting what she says is a generational shift in support toward labor unions. “The world nowadays calls back for unionization,” she said. “If we don’t change anything, nothing’s going to change.”

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