A more tidy union 

On Thursday, Oct. 7, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local #4 filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming that Kalispell’s Tidyman’s supermarket has engaged in “retaliatory discipline and discrimination” against employees engaged in union activities. Nancy Welter, a checker who’s been with Tidyman’s for about nine years, was among the union representatives gathered with signs in the Tidyman’s parking lot for an “informational picket” the day of the complaint.

Welter accuses Tidyman’s of showing favoritism in scheduling the newest employees (who therefore have the lowest wages) with the most work hours, and says that due to her union activism, store management is “no doubt” looking for a way to get rid of her.

“I was never once written up until the union started [in November],” Welter says. “Now, in the last eight months, I’ve suddenly had six write-ups,” including a three-day suspension for improperly handling new “voiding out” purchase procedures.

Asked for comment, Tidyman’s Human Resources Manager Karen Riba in Spokane says, “We don’t discuss employee discipline.”

UFCW President Nicholai Cocergine says Tidyman’s hasn’t lived up to the promises it made to Kalispell’s City Council in 1991, when the store was originally being discussed. According to City Council minutes from Sept. 3, 1991, Tidyman’s representative, Mike Davis, told the Council that 60 to 70 percent of the hours worked at the store would be accounted for by employees in full-time positions.

Fliers from Tidyman’s employees handed out by Cocergine and others claimed that Tidyman’s now employs less than 10 percent of its workforce in full-time positions.

That number is factually wrong, according to company records.

Tidyman’s Director of Public Affairs Patty Kilcup says the store actually employs 97 workers, 50 in full-time positions, which equates to just over 50 percent in full-time jobs. Tidyman’s minimum starting wage of $6 per hour is lower than Kalispell’s Rosauers ($6.10 per hour) but higher than the local Albertson’s ($5.90 per hour).

Welter isn’t afraid that causing a stir may cost her her job.

“I’m too old to be afraid of them,” she says. “They can fire me but I’ve got protection from the union.”

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