Ben & Jerry's Flagship Store Employees Have Filed To Unionize

The next time you find yourself in Burlington, Vermont craving a scoop of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food, it might be served up to you by a union member. The Washington Post reported that on Monday, April 18, workers at the flagship Scoop Shop for Ben & Jerry's filed for a union election, an important step that could result in the first unionized location for the ice cream company.

Ben & Jerry's was founded by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in 1978, and besides being famous for its crazy flavor combinations, the company is also well known for being politically progressive. The Post noted that co-founder Jerry Greenfield briefly stopped in the Burlington store on Sunday, leaving before the workers announced to management their intention to join Workers United. The Associated Press said company spokesperson Sean Greenwood explained in an email that the Burlington workers' decision to join a union is "an important issue to us, we're aware of it, and we're actively working on it."

In 1998, the LA Times reported that Ben & Jerry's successfully prevented maintenance workers at the company's production plant in St. Albans, Vermont from unionizing, and labor studies professor John Logan told The Post that "An aggressive anti-union campaign would involve a huge amount of reputational risk for Ben & Jerry's." Given the current climate, in which the former CEO of Starbucks has appeared before Congress to testify about the company's anti-union activity, the Vermont workers' move to unionize is a scoop worth following.

Why do Ben & Jerry's scoopers want to join a union?

The Washington Post said discussions around unionizing began around April 3, on Ben & Jerry's annual Free Cone Day. According to union organizers, managers at the Burlington location removed the store's tip jar during the event, replacing it only after workers complained. Ben & Jerry's employees' statement to management said, "Collectively, we have come to embody Ben & Jerry's slogan of 'peace, love, and ice cream,'" adding, "Forming a union will ensure that present and future scoopers have irrefutable rights."

Citing increased duties without additional pay and inadequate training for managing difficult situations like customers entering the Burlington ice cream shop under the influence of drugs or undergoing overdoses, all 37 of the shop's scoopers have pledged to support the drive toward joining Workers United. The store employees seek "a seat at the table" and want to be involved in decisions about their workplace. Union organizers have asked Ben & Jerry's not to retaliate against workers seeking to unionize, and shift manager Parker Kimberly told The Post, "We are working with Ben & Jerry's, not against it."