Concluding a nearly year-long dispute, Ashland Food Co-op employees will get the opportunity this month to vote on whether to unionize the store.

Concluding a nearly year-long dispute, Ashland Food Co-op employees will get the opportunity this month to vote on whether to unionize the store.

Employees are set to vote on Aug. 23 and 24, and the results will be available on the final day of the election, said National Labor Relations Board officials.

Employees will enter their secret-ballot votes in a designated "quiet room" at the co-op over the two-day voting process, which will be under scrutiny by officials from the NLRB, said Linda Davidson, its Portland-based officer in charge.

Co-op General Manager Richard Katz said he is disappointed that about a dozen of the co-op's staff, whose status the union deemed managerial, will be excluded from voting in the election, and the votes of six other assistant managers won't be considered unless the final tally is within six votes.

"We hoped that all non-management employees would be allowed to vote "… we reluctantly agreed in order to move this process forward and avoid a hearing and further delay," Katz said in a written statement.

Some of those employees are assistant and shift managers within individual departments at the co-op, Davidson said.

"We did our best to navigate through this and still have a timely election for employees to decide the matter of unionization," Katz said, adding the store has always supported holding a fair election.

Co-op employees did not return phone messages left Thursday and Friday.

"When you get right down to it, it is one or two votes in either direction," said United Food and Commercial Workers Union representative Anne Dietz. "You can't look at it and say I know this person is going to win, and this person is going to lose."

The union filed its current request with the NLRB to unionize the store in November, but it had been on hold because of an unfair labor practice complaint the union filed against the co-op's management staff the same month.

An ensuing four-month NLRB investigation found merit in 13 of 16 allegations brought against the co-op, and the store's management staff and the union reached an informal settlement on March 29 ending the dispute.

The federal 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, which first oversaw the case.

The upcoming vote is the culmination of a 60-day "posting period" during which the co-op was required to physically display a "NLRB posting" stating that its management would abide by the rules of the National Labor Relations Act.

About two months after posting period ended, the co-op and union responded to a letter from the NLRB and agreed last week to move forward with an election.

After the vote, both parties will have a week to file an objection to the election, Davidson said, if either determines something interfered with the fairness of the election.

If no objections are filed, the NLRB will certify the election results Sept. 3, she said.

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