TROY, NY – This morning, Capital Roots staff delivered a letter to Chief Executive Officer Amy Klein and the Capital Roots management team requesting voluntary recognition of their union with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 200United. The request for recognition comes just a few weeks after organizing conversations first started amongst the staff.
Anna Costa, Capital Roots’ Mobile Markets Manager and union organizing committee member, said, "Watching my coworkers come together to unionize so quickly and harmoniously has been a great reminder of the strength our team has. Everyone's energy and insight during this process makes me that much more hopeful for the future of Capital Roots. We're the ones out in the community every day, seeing the changes that need to happen, and now we're asking for a seat at the table with the decision-makers.”
Cody Bloomfield, Capital Roots’ Volunteer Coordinator and union organizing committee member, said, "As a co-lead of Capital Roots’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee, I am thrilled to be organizing for improved working conditions. Like my co-workers, I love what I do, but I find the workload and pay unsustainable. Unionizing enables us to weave a foundation of support to more effectively accomplish the organization’s mission. I absolutely view this as a positive step for Capital Roots as a whole."
Capital Roots is a not-for-profit organization headquartered at its Urban Grow Center in the North Central neighborhood. It operates over 50 community gardens across Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady Counties. Founded in 1972 (as Capital District Community Gardens), Capital Roots’ mission is to provide and expand access to fresh, healthy foods and green spaces. Through its various programs such as its Veggie Mobile, Healthy Stores, and Farm to School, Capital Roots and its local farm partners provide quality and locally-grown produce to schools, bodegas and convenience stores, and neighborhoods underserved by grocery stores.
None of this important work would be possible without its hard-working staff. Over the years, as Capital Roots has grown and expanded, the workload of each individual staff member has increased dramatically. Unfortunately, wages are not competitive and do not reflect the work performed by staff, leading to high turnover or staff being forced to work second jobs to make ends meet.
As essential workers, staff continued to work in person throughout the pandemic ensuring food access to the various communities it serves, risking exposure to COVID-19. As the organization has grown, staff feel its management has grown less and less transparent when it comes to sharing information with the staff about its plans and goals.
Mary Ann Gonzalez, Capital Roots’ Community Gardens Organizer and union organizing committee member, said, "It is my hope that Capital Roots Management will formally recognize our union. So that we can all come together to improve our working conditions and promote internal sustainability and equity. I want to see all of us thrive together in the organization so that we are in a better position to help our community members to also thrive!"
The letter delivered to CEO Amy Klein was signed by over 80% of the approximately 20 employees. An equal number of staff have signed union authorization cards and are prepared to file for and win an election with the National Labor Relations Board if Klein refuses voluntary recognition. Staff gave her until Friday, June 24 to respond to their request. Today’s announcements come just a couple weeks after workers at Joseph’s House and Shelter, another Troy-based not-for-profit organization, went public with their union organized drive with SEIU Local 200United.