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MADISON, Wisc. - Employees at Whole Foods Market in Madison, Wisc., on Friday voted 65 to 54 in favor of joining United Food and Commercial Workers union Local 1444, making it the first and only union in the Austin, Texas-based 135-store chain, The Wisconsin State Journal reports.
Whole Foods has traditionally claimed that it's "a culture that makes representation unnecessary." John Mackey, Whole Foods' founder and CEO, is known as an outspoken opponent of unions.
Brendan O'Sullivan, a union organizer and produce employee, said the workers chose to vote for the union so they "could participate in determining conditions of employment and have a voice in the workplace, which results in more respect."
In a statement, Whole Foods spokeswoman Kate Lowery said the company is "surprised and disappointed" by the results of the election.
"We firmly believe that with our new regional and store leadership in place, our Madison team members would have soon realized our firm commitment to our founding core values that include team member excellence and happiness," she said, adding that the company remains "committed to creating and providing a work environment where our team members can flourish and succeed to their highest potential."
Whole Foods has until Friday to file an objection to the election, according to the National Labor Relations Board. If it goes uncontested, the board will certify the election Saturday. Local 1444 will then have a year to bargain and sign a contract with Whole Foods. If they are unable to reach an agreement, the store's employees may petition to decertify.
Lowery said she doesn't know if the company will contest the election, but that it will decide within the week.
About 20 eligible employees did not vote, according to a union representative.