Workers at Seward Co-op grocery in Minneapolis welcomed a special visitor Monday, June 19 — State Representative Ilhan Omar, who walked through the store talking with workers and cheering on their union organizing effort.
Some 300 Seward Co-op workers will be eligible to vote Thursday in an election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board to decide whether or not to authorize UFCW Local 653 as their collective bargaining agent.
As Seward’s natural foods grocery on E. Franklin Ave. was busy with mid-day shoppers, Representative Omar moved through the store. She greeted co-op workers, shaking hands and asking them about what they liked about working at the co-op and what concerns led them to support the union organizing drive.
Many of the workers wore buttons reading “Union Co-op. Stronger Together.”
“I met so many people that I hadn’t necessarily worked with, just from the organizing effort,” Jim Bjork told Omar. “It’s been really good.” Bjork has worked six years at Seward in the meat department and has served on the workers’ organizing committee.
“People are really excited. It’s a welcome change,” said Bea Cooper, a co-op worker who guided Omar through the store.
About a dozen co-op workers posed for a photo with Omar in the store.
“The process of organizing is bringing people together,” Omar said.”I’m really excited to see people fighting for their rights… and working for a different kind of workplace.”
“It’s part of our country’s history for people to come together and collectively fight for their rights,” she continued. “As a former union member, I know how important it is for people… to feel they are working in a dignified way.”
Omar said, “what I heard here is that they understand this is a place they love to work at and see their fellow workers as family and they want to collectively fight together to have better wages and work standards and protections.”
Seward Co-op operates two retail groceries in Minneapolis, located at 2823 E. Franklin Ave. and 317 E. 38th St., and also the Co-op Creamer cafe at 2601 E. Franklin Ave.
The union organizing drive began with two workers meeting together in January.
By June 7, when union authorization cards were submitted to the National Labor Relations Board, more than 75 percent of the workers had signed the cards.