Monday, August 4, 2008

Pico Rivera, California City Council Members Boycott Fresh & Easy Store Grand Opening; Mayor Attends But Delivers Pro-UFCW Union Message to Execs

Every member of the Pico Rivera, California City Council, except for the city's mayor, walked away from the grand opening of a Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market grocery store in the Southern California city last week to protest the retailer's refusal thus far to meet with officials of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union to discuss the potential unionization of the fast-growing non-union grocery chain, Fresh & Easy Buzz has learned.

Pico Rivera Mayor Ron Beilke said he decided to attend the store grand opening in part to give Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market executives a message that the city is pro-union, and that he would like the retailer's executives to sit down and talk with UFCW union leaders about the unionization issue.

The names of the four Pico Rivera City Council Members who boycotted last week's Fresh & Easy store grand opening in the city are: Gracie Gallegos (Mayor Pro-Tem), Bob Archuleta, David W. Armenta and Gregory Salcido. [Click here to view photographs of the mayor and four members of the Pico Rivera City council.]

The UFCW had numerous union supporters at the Pico Rivera Fresh & Easy store grand opening last week, as they've had at other recent store grand openings. The UFCW supporters were carrying signs that read "I won't shop at Fresh & Easy," as they demonstrated out in front of the store during the grand opening celebration.

The members of the Pico Rivera City Council said they boycotted the Fresh & Easy grocery market grand opening to show support for the workers at other Southern California supermarkets like Safeway's Vons, Kroger Co.'s Ralphs, SuperValu, Inc.'s Albertsons, Stater Bros. and other grocery chains in the city and region that are UFCW union shops.

The city council members said they also wanted to send a message to Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's senior executives that the city supports their sitting down at a meeting with UFCW union leaders.

According to a reliable source who neither works for the UFCW union or Tesco, Fresh & Easy Buzz has learned the UFCW coordinated the boycott with the members of the Pico Rivera City Council, including the mayor's attending the store grand opening last week and delivering the pro-union message to Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market executives who were attending.

In fact, don't be surprised to see other Southern California city council's conducting similar boycott's of Fresh & Easy new store grand openings in Southern California, as requesting such activities has now become a part of the UFCW union's multi-fronted campaign to get Tesco to meet with union leaders in order to discuss the potential unionization of Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market store-level workers.

Tesco's position vis-a-vis the UFCW is that it has no plans to meet with the retail clerks' union's leaders to discuss the subject. Further, Tesco says the UFCW is free to organize store-level Fresh & Easy grocery store employees in accordance with U.S. federal labor laws.

The UFCW argues that it's the only labor union Tesco refuses to meet with. Tesco has some form of union affiliation in all of the countries it does business in with the exception of the USA. This includes the United Kingdom, Eastern Europe and Asia.

The UFCW has created a petition on its website, Fresh & Easy, where union is asking those consumers who support a meeting between Tesco executives and UFCW leaders to sign to sign it, asking Tesco to agree to meet with the union. Thus far there are about 50,000 signatures on the online petition.

As we've reported in the past, presumptive Democratic party U.S. Presidential candidate Barack Obama, who the UFCW supports for President, has sent two letters to Tesco PLC CEO Sir Terry Leahy and to Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market USA CEO Tim Mason, asking the senior executives to meet with or send representatives to meet with UFCW union officials.

Additionally, Joseph Hanson, president of the UFCW union, gave Britain's Prince Andrew a letter addressed to Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy some time ago, asking the Prince while he was attending the Fresh & Easy store grand opening earlier this year in the low-income city of Compton, California to give the letter requesting a meeting to the Tesco CEO.

In addition to its campaign in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona, which includes dropping flyers that report on past problems Tesco has had in the UK regarding food safety issues at some of its stores, picketing Fresh & Easy store grand openings, along with demonstrating at existing Fresh & Easy grocery stores, and a grass roots and media relations offensive, the UFCW union also is conducting a campaign in the United Kingdom, which we've reported on and written about here.

Despite the union's aggressive campaign, Tesco has stuck to its position, repeating it has no plans to meet with union officials, and repeating that the union is free to organize store-level Fresh & Easy workers according to U.S. labor laws.

Tesco also has not fought back in the media against the UFCW campaign, prefering to take a "rise above it-type" approach and offer only the public positions and statements described above in response to the union's demands and actions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

everything i read about the "boycott" of f&e stores is just not enough for me to support...ralphs & vons are union and they screw their workers for months and months at a time every so many years, so why do i care if fresh & easy is non union? all the grocery stores around me have their downfalls and issues with health & safety. the UK anti-tesco website had lame reasons for boycott. i will boycott for good reasons, but i don't see any worthwhile. the f&e shop around my corner will open next week and i can't wait b/c the closest store to me has a busted sewer pipe and WREEKS of raw sewage and fish. there are large vats of ice with seafood in them that SMELL. i'm sure i will shop at both stores and i can't wait to find products at fresh & easy that i cannot buy at the store across the street. also, any group called "christian aid" that supports the boycott makes me wary of the validity of the anti-f&e opinion. sounds way more political than it appears.