Friday, July 4, 2008

Breaking News: UFCW Union Strikes Again With Anti-Tesco Fresh & Easy Brochure Drop in Neighborhood Surrounding New Manhattan Beach Store

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) has conducted another anti-Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market brochure distribution drop to households in the neighborhood where the retailer's new Fresh & Easy grocery store opened on Wednesday in Manhattan Beach, in Southern California, Fresh & Easy Buzz has learned. [Read our June 30 report on the first brochure distribution drop here.

The latest brochure, which was distributed to neighborhood residents yesterday, follows up on the first neighborhood leafleting campaign the retail supermarket clerks' union conducted a few days prior to July 2, when the Manhattan Beach Fresh & Easy grocery market opened.

The latest brochure asks residents of the neighborhood to not shop at the local Tesco-owned Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market grocery store "until they establish a record of meeting U.S. safety laws."

The brochures, which are in full color on 8 x 11.5 inch heavy grade paper, were left on the doorsteps of houses throughout the neighborhoods surrounding the Fresh & Easy grocery store, which is located in a shopping center at 1700 Rosecrans in Manhattan Beach.

The cover of the brochure features a picture of a union butcher (in his butcher's apron) named Marty W. Woods, Sr., who works at a Southern California Ralph's supermarket, which is owned by Kroger Co. and is a UFCW unionized chain. To the left of Mr. Woods' picture is the headline: "An important message from your local butcher: Don't be fooled by Tesco's Fresh & Easy."

On the reverse side is a letter from union Ralphs' supermarket butcher Marty W. Woods Sr. Below is the text of the letter/brochure:

Dear Neighbor: A new grocery store just opened in our neighborhood called Fresh & Easy and I'm writing to you because I'm very concerned about it.

Fresh & Easy is owned by a British company called Tesco, one of the largest and most aggressive companies in the world. They're now opening stores in the United States under a new name: Fresh & Easy.

There are a few things you should know about Tesco before you decide to shop at one of their Fresh & Easy stores.

Tesco has a record of breaking food safety laws in many countries.

Tesco has illegally altered use-by dates on products, sold moldy and out of date food, and even sold food labeled as organic with high levels of pesticides.

I've been a butcher for over 30 years and I've spent by career working to ensure that the meat and fish that our grocery stores sell is not only fresh, but that it meets all the food safety laws of the United States.

I've worked very hard to do my part in maintaining a high standard for food safety in the grocery industry here, and I'd like to keep it that way.

Before you shop at a Fresh & Easy store, be sure to learn more about their record by going to

Please join me in signing the Fresh and Easy Facts petition to not shop at Tesco's Fresh & Easy stores until they establish a record of meeting U.S. food safety laws.

Thank you for your considerations,

Marty W. Woods, Sr.
Meat Department/Butcher

This brochure, and the one distributed by the UFCW prior to the Manhattan Beach Fresh & Easy store grand opening on July 2, have been used before by the union in various neighborhoods in Southern California, as have similar ones been used in the Las Vegas, Nevada Metropolitan region and Arizona markets, where the non-union retailer has its grocery stores.

However, the UFCW union is increasing the frequency of these food safety-oriented anti-Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market brochure drops, which is part of the summer intensification of its Fresh & Easy unionization campaign, which Fresh & Easy Buzz was the first publication to report on.

The back-to-back brochure distributions in the Manhattan Beach neighborhood, using two different brochures thus far, demonstrates this increased aggressiveness by the retail supermarket clerks' union.

The UFCW wants Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market CEO Tim Mason to meet with union leaders in order to discuss the unionization of store-level Fresh & Easy employees.

Mr. Mason has thus far refused to meet with union representatives, as has Tesco PLC CEO Terry Leahy, despite recently receiving a letter from presumptive Democratic party U.S. Presidential candidate Barack Obama, asking Mr. Leahy to either do so himself or have Mr. Mason or others meet with the UFCW union leaders.

The UFCW, which represents about 1.3 million union supermarket clerks in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, also has launched a campaign in the United Kingdom called "The Two Faces of Tesco," which is designed to create a grass roots coalition to urge and put pressure on Tesco PLC, which has unionized stores in the UK, to meet with the leaders of the U.S. retail supermarket clerks' union, as we reported on June 4.

Tesco's position is that the UFCW is free to organize Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market store-level employees within the structure of existing U.S. labor laws. The company further says it is up to the store employees to choose if they want to join the union.

Recently, both Tesco PLC CEO Terry Leahy and Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market USA CEO Tim Mason have said they have no plans to meet with UFCW representatives. U.S. labor laws don't require them to do so.

Meanwhile, expect the UFCW brochure distribution drops to be conducted regularly and often over the next 90 days in nearly all of the residential neighborhoods in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona where Tesco plans to open at least 30 new Fresh & Easy grocery stores in the next three months, as we reported in this story on June 25.

The brochures all play on the food safety theme, siting instances in the UK in which Tesco was found to be selling food products with expired code dates, along with selling foods in a couple instances labeled as organic but which it turned out didn't contain organic ingredients.

Tesco settled each of these issues with the respective government authorities in the UK.

Meanwhile, Fresh & Easy Buzz has learned the organizers of the UFCW's UK "The Two Faces of Tesco" campaign, which is led by the union's Emily Stewart, is intensifying that effort in the UK by attempting to create a coalition of liberal members of Parliament to help convince Tesco to meet with leaders of the union in the U.S. The UFCW also has enlisted the help of various British trade unions to help it strengthen its campaign and case.

As we reported in the June 4 story, ("News and Analysis: UFCW Union Takes its Tesco Union Organizing Campaign Across the Pond to the United Kingdom Beginning Today,") the UFCW has enlisted the support of UK Member of Parliament (MP) John Cruddas to help it lead the Tesco UK campaign. MP Cruddas is currently attempting to line up pro-union fellow Parliament members to join him in support of the UFCW campaign to get Tesco CEO Terry Leahy to have company executives sit down and meet with leaders of the union in the U.S.

It's likely to be a rather interesting next 90 days in California, Nevada and Arizona food retailing Tesco Fresh & Easy style.

The retailer will open at least 30 new small-format, combination basic grocery and fresh foods grocery stores in the next three months, while the UFCW union will match the promotional brochures the grocer distributes to households in the neighborhoods surrounding each new store it opens prior to that store's grand opening, with it own anti-Tesco brochures, like it did with the Manhattan Beach store opening.

Additionally, expect to see union representatives and members picketing at nearly all of the new store grand opening events over the next 90 days. Stay tuned.


For a selection of Fresh & Easy Buzz coverage of the UFCW-Tesco union issue, click here.

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