When workers pushed to unionize, the ice cream chain didn’t go scorched earth. It chilled.

By Terri Gerstein, Slate

Something unusual happened in Vermont last week. The flagship location of Ben & Jerry’s in Burlington recognized the Scoopers United union after almost all 39 workers voted in favor of it. During the organizing campaign, no workers were fired for supporting the union. The company issued no Chicken Little predictions of imminent doom, no threats of closure or moving operations overseas (or worse, to New Hampshire). No sudden raises for union opponents, no newly stringent managers, no firing union supporters for clocking in 90 seconds late. Instead, true to its reputation, the company was simply … chill.

ben and jerrys store unionization

Ben & Jerrys, it seems, realized that a union is neither a dragon to slay nor an indictment of a company, but rather a way for its workforce to have a collective voice. Scoopers United’s statement on Twitter in response to this win? “We look forward to a sweet and collaborative future.”

The company’s recognition of the union followed an agreement it signed in April to abide by fair election principles, including giving the SEIU-affiliated Workers United Upstate time with employees and space to post material in the store, as well as not retaliating against union supporters.

This refreshingly lawful scenario is unfortunately an anomaly in the United States. Too frequently, employers respond with reflexive and overwhelming opposition to union efforts, violating the law (which badly needs reform) in more than 40 percent of election campaigns. Corporations routinely hire anti-union consultants and law firms costing thousands of dollars a day. Employers essentially go to war with their own people.

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