By WILSON RING Associated Press
BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Vermont ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s said Tuesday it supports a plan to unionize by the workers at a retail shop in the same city where the brand, known as much for its social activism as its products, was founded.
Ben & Jerry’s said, in a statement, it shares “the goal of advancing justice, both inside and outside our company.” The ice cream manufacturer was founded in a former gas station a short distance from its retail shop in downtown Burlington.
“That’s why we recognize and support the rights of all workers to unionize and collectively bargain,” the company said. “Ben & Jerry’s is committed to the goal of operating our company in a way that is fair, inclusive, and equitable, while being a dynamic and fun place for all workers.”
About 40 employees at the Burlington shop said Monday they had formed an organizing committee and petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for an election. They said they have the support of the upstate New York & Vermont chapter of Workers United , the union that started the Starbucks unionization campaign in Buffalo, New York.
“I think the statement is a great sign,” Workers United organizing director Jaz Brisack, who covers upstate New York and Vermont, said Tuesday after seeing Ben & Jerry’s statement.
Brisack said they were hopeful Ben & Jerry’s would partner with the workers in forming the union.
The so-called scoopers submitted the petition needed to hold a union election to the National Labor Relations Board on Monday. Brisack didn’t know how soon an election could be held, but they hoped it would be soon.
Founded in 1978, but currently owned by consumer goods conglomerate Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s has not shied away from social causes. While many businesses tread lightly in politics for fear of alienating customers, the ice cream maker, which sells its products across the world, has taken the opposite approach, often espousing progressive causes.