The Ashland Food Co-op Thursday agreed to a settlement of the unfair labor practice charge filed against it by a local union in November.

The Ashland Food Co-op Thursday agreed to a settlement of the unfair labor practice charge filed against it by a local union in November.

Although the co-op agreed to the informal settlement with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, the store's management did not admit to any of the allegations brought against it in the charge, said Annie Hoy, outreach manager for the co-op.

"The settlement states there is no admission of a violation of the NLRA (National Labor Relations Act)," said Hoy.

The settlement was turned over to the National Labor Relations Board Thursday, Hoy said.

Anne Dietz, a UFCW representative, said the settlement has not been signed by the NLRB, but that an agreement was reached with the co-op.

"It's not the dream settlement," said Dietz. "They didn't admit it "… we're really excited that they have committed to no longer commit these illegal acts, and to ensure that the work environment becomes one of dignity and respect for the workers, but I would have liked that they not create an abusive environment in the first place."

Investigators from the NLRB did find merit to 13 of the 16 allegations brought against the co-op in the unfair labor practices charge, and the agency was set to file a formal complaint against the store if it didn't reach a settlement with UFCW before the end of March, said Anne Pomerantz, acting regional director for the NLRB in Seattle.

"We signed the settlement "… which based on what we have understood from the NLRB, resolves all of the union's allegations," said Richard Katz, general manager for the co-op. "The co-op management will be working very hard to stay in compliance with the National Labor Relations Act, having recently learned much more about this workplace law."

Hoy said the settlement was signed by the co-op to expedite the process of moving toward an employee vote on unionizing the store and to avoid litigation.

"It's like pleading no contest," said Dietz. "If you're caught with cocaine in your pocket and you plea no contest, everybody knows why you're pleading no contest."

The co-op will enter into a 60-day "posting period" before it can move forward with a secret-ballot employee vote on unionizing the store. The UFCW filed with the NLRB an election to unionize the store in November, but the request has been on hold because of the unfair labor practices charge.

For the next two months, the co-op is required to physically display a "NLRB posting" stating that its management will abide by the rules of the NLRA. Its management will be monitored by officials of the NLRB for its compliance throughout the 60-day period.

"The co-op will strive to continue to provide a supportive and joyful workplace for all our employees," Katz said.

"I want to reiterate that co-op management firmly supports the right of our employees to make an informed decision on unionization, free of any coercion by management or union. We are looking forward to having a prompt, fair and informed secret-ballot vote on the question of unionization."

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.