Thursday, January 14, 2010

UFCW Union Launches Informal Boycott of Fresno CA Fresh & Easy Stores Today; One Day After the Stores Open

UFCW members picket at the Fresh & Easy store in Manhattan Beach, California on grand opening day, July 2, 2008. Read story here.

The United Foods & Commercial Workers union Local 8-Golden State, based in Roseville, California near Sacramento, launched informational picket lines at three of Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market stores in the cities of Fresno and Clovis in California's Central Valley today, just one day after the fresh foods and grocery chain opened the three stores in the two cities Wednesday morning.

The three Fresh & Easy stores are located at 2820 Tulare St. and 8059 N. Cedar Avenue in Fresno, and at 790 Shaw Avenue in Clovis. Clovis is a suburb of Fresno and is located right next door to the city.

Tesco also opened a Fresh & Easy market in nearby Lemoore in early December 2009. There are currently four Fresh & Easy stores in the Fresno region. An additional store is set to open next month in Fresno at 2047 West Shaw Avenue. More stores will be opening, likely in late February and early March.

Jacques Loveall, President of UFCW Local 8-Golden State, says the grocery clerks' union is asking shoppers in Fresno and Clovis not to shop at Fresh & Easy and to shop instead at UFCW- unionized grocery stores such as Save Mart, Food Maxx (Both owned by Modesto, California-based Save Mart Supermarkets) Kroger-owned Foods Co, Safeway Stores-owned Vons, local independent Ronnie’s Midway market and the local outlets of the Rite Aid drug chain.

"Tesco, which is Fresh & Easy’s parent company in the United Kingdom, is siphoning money out of our community," Loveall says, regarding the union's informal picketing of the three Fresno-area Fresh & Easy stores. "We are responding to that provocation."

The union local president added: "California has enough challenges without a foreign company (Tesco) coming in with substandard jobs that threaten good local companies that bring value and good jobs to our community. It’s bad enough good American jobs are exported overseas at an alarming rate. Now this global giant from the UK is coming to our country thinking it can take advantage of American workers on our own turf. We will not allow that to happen."

Loveall says Tesco's Fresh & Easy poses a threat to unionized food and grocery market share and to the living standards of UFCW union members' wages and benefits.

"Our members are prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure that workers at Fresh & Easy have the same access to the good pay, health care, pension and job security that are enjoyed by Union members," the UFCW union local president says.

The UFCW union has been campaigning against Tesco's non-union status with Fresh & Easy for over two years, as we've reported on and written about extensively for that period of time in Fresh & Easy Buzz. [Our first report was in 2007 here: UFCW Union to Organize Fresh & Easy Clerks in 2008.]

In late September 2009 UFCW Local 8-Golden State launched an informal picketing campaign at three then recently-opened Fresh & Easy stores in the Bakersfield, California region. Two of those stores are in Bakersfield; one at 11100 Olive Drive and the other at 5190 Stockdale Hwy. The third Fresh & Easy store is at 611 Cecil Avenue in nearby Delano. Bakersfield is south of Fresno in the southern Central Valley.

In 2008 the UFCW conducted a very aggressive multi-strategy tactical campaign against Tesco's Fresh & Easy. That campaign included: picketing at Fresh & Easy stores in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada; a multi-media public relations campaign in both the U.S. and UK; the authoring of a shareholder resolution at Tesco's annual meeting in the United Kingdom against Fresh & Easy's non-union status, which failed to pass; along with various other tactics to attempt to get Tesco to open Fresh & Easy to the union.

The UFCW union even was able to get then candidate and now President Barack Obama to sent a letter to Tesco requesting it open Fresh & Easy to union representation, as we reported in this June 2008 story.

Tesco's official position has been that it's the choice of the Fresh & Easy store-level employees, which are the workers the UFCW is attempting to unionize, to vote in favor of UFCW representation if they choose to but that the company has no position pro or con unionization for Fresh & Easy retail employees.

In September 2008, as we reported in this story [September 17, 2008: Store Workers at Huntington Beach Fresh & Easy Demand Union Recognition From Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market] employees of the Fresh & Easy market in Huntington Beach in Southern California asked Fresh & Easy's senior management for recognition as a UFCW union shop.

But as we reported in this story in early October [October 2, 2008: Tesco Fresh & Easy Denies Huntington Beach Store Employees Request to Be Recognized As A Union Store; Next Step Likley to Be Open Ballot Election] Fresh & Easy's corporate management denied the store workers' request, which isn't an unusual conclusion in such matters.

No open ballot election has taken place for the Huntington Beach Fresh & Easy store employees to date. Our union sources told us last year that the main reason from their end for this is because they were waiting for the U.S. Congress to take up the Employee Free Choice Act legislation, which many thought Congress would do in 2009. However, health care reform prevented Congress from putting the legislation, also called "Card Check," on the agenda. It is expected to be debated this year.

A Fresh & Easy Buzz correspondent talked to a couple employees at the Huntington Beach Fresh & Easy in fall 2009 regarding the union issue. The consensus of the employees was that joining the union had sort of fizzled out as a priority for the workers because of the recession and high unemployment rate, particularly in Southern California. However, we also know the idea of being able to start the unionization process with Fresh & Easy with that one store is far from dead among UFCW organizers.

The UFCW's aggressive unionization campaign against Tesco and its Fresh & Easy chain went rather silent in late 2008, and remained that way for all of 2009.

The UFCW union's public relations media campaign came basically to a halt. The UFCW even stopped updating the Web Site and Blog - fresh & easy facts - it's used against Tesco's Fresh & Easy in the campaign. For example, it hasn't updated the articles part of the site since June 2008.

We don't see signs that the UFCW's campaign to unionize Tesco's Fresh & Easy is about to return to its aggressive 2008 stance anytime soon.

However it's important to note that Local 8-Golden State is one of the strongest and most successful of all the UFCW locals nationwide in terms of organizing and contract negotiations with existing unionized supermarket chains.

For example, in Northern California and the Central Valley, the local's territory, all of the leading supermarket chains - Safeway (Safeway and Vons), Kroger-owned Foods Co and what's left of Cala Foods, Raley's (Raley's, Nob Hill, Bel Air and Food Source) Save Mart (Save Mart, Lucky and FoodMaxx), Albertsons - and most of the small chains, multi-store independents and even many larger single-store independents are unionized.

What the local has been unable to do, even though its region is arguably the strongest unionized grocery market in the nation, is to be able to force non-supermarket food retailing operators like Walmart, Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe's, Winco Foods and a couple others to unionize, although it has tried and continues to try to do so.

There's significant pressure on the UFCW to unionize these chains, particularly in California, because the union chains like Safeway, Kroger and the others, are coming under continued pressure from these non-union operators in terms of increased competition and encroachment on market share. This is a fact the CEO's of Safeway, Kroger, Stater Bros., Save Mart, Albertson's, Raley's and the other chains with operations in California have made clear via their representatives to the union in contract negotiations.

Fresno could be the new battle ground for the UFCW's continued efforts to unionize the store-level employees of Tesco's Fresh & Easy. But thus far the union's efforts in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada haven't born fruit. We will be falling the developments closely. Stay tuned.

[Readers: Click here and here for an extensive selection of past Fresh & Easy Buzz coverage of the UFCW and Tesco Fresh & Easy unionization issue and related topics. Notice the various links to other stories at the posts at the two links above as well.]


Anonymous said...

I shopped at Fresh and Easy today in north Fresno , Better service than any of the union stores. Good product line with absolutely no complaints

Anonymous said...

There were some union members picketing out front of the 2 Fresh & Easy stores in Fresno on Thurday and Friday. They said they would be back today.

troubs said...

LOVED fresh n easy a great experience all around! =) so excited to have this store in my community.

Anonymous said...

Fresh and Easy(tesco) work with the unions in Britain,however the American unions tried to undermine their entry before they had opened a single store.That is why they will not work with them.Anybody shopping at F and E can be certain of getting quality products at great prices.

SaveMarter said...

Save Mart and Safeway pay a living wage and offer good benefits because they are union. I work at Save Mart and make $20 hour. Did you know Fresh & Easy workers make half that amount. Plus they can only work 20 hours a week even if they want to work more. That's $200a week of gross wages. Fine for a part time student or second wage earner with a very well paid spouse. But that's it.

Anonymous said...

whedne"Did you know Fresh & Easy workers make half that amount. Plus they can only work 20 hours a week even if they want to work more."

I don't know where you got your information SaveMarter, but it is, 1.) misleading, and 2.) inaccurate.

1.) $10hr is the standard starting pay for lowest level entry employees (not all employees).

2.) Employees are expected to work a minimum of 20 hours a week (not a maximum). Most work significantly more than 20 hours a week.

Adrian said...

I just got back from the Clovis store (Shaw and Willow) and they were out there in force, telling patrons the evils of Fresh and Easy!

Anonymous said...

They were out there in Reedley tonight and its just a shame! With unemployment at 18% to 20% here in the valley even a job that pays $10 an hour for 20 hours a week is better than nothing. This little shopping center is a shot in the arm for our little town and to see hired hands out there who don't give 2 hoots about the lack of work, even farm work, in our area picketing a new store that is offering jobs is just a shame on SaveMart and I plan on telling them so.

I work in Fresno and could easily spend my money in Fresno after work, save a few dollars then drive home but I do not. I spend my money here in Reedley to help our local mercants stay in business and help our city's tax revenue. Fresh and Easy is a great choice for a quick stop after work and SM for my big shopping.

Why don't they picket Town n Country? They don't pay $20 an hour and they certainly are NOT union. T&C takes more revenue away from SaveMart than the little Fresh and Easy store ever will and this IS about revenue, make no mistake!

You want to make your picket line in our little town work? Have the clerks of SM out there picketing.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing wrong with making $10 dollars an hour. In some areas of California that's not a bad wage, especially with the bad economy. What gets me is these unions saying that Tesco is sucking money out of the US because Tesco is a foreign company. Last time I checked, unionized stores sold produce and meat that are produced in Mexico and other foreign countries. Aren't they just as guilty of taking money out of the US instead of buying local? Unions suck. How can anyone justify someone making $20 an hour working at a grocery store? I could see a manager making that much but not a bagger or cashier. That's why places like Save Mart are way over priced because they overpay their employees. You want to be paid a higher wage, then get a degree. Not some union who looks to only benefit themselves.

Anonymous said...

F&E pays what they feel the positions are worth. If the employees need or want to make more than that they can look elsewhere for employment. No one is holding a gun to their heads to work there. Additionally, it is not F&E's responsibility to pay for someone to raise a family, it is their responsibility to run a profitable business.

Anonymous said...

BRAVO to fresh and easy for standing up to union extortionists and saying NO to union shake downs and YES to the free market economy. Unions are parasites who dont want to accept the realites of free market economics. THe picketers have motivated me to shop at fresh and easy so i can support a company who tells them to pound sand.

Mikey said...

I wonder how many union busters or tesco bloggers are posting negative union comments on here. Is it good that tesco is creating jobs in California? Yes. Are they detracting business away from other grocery stores who pay higher wages? Yes. Wealth is generated from the bottom-up. If you start paying people lower wages you're only furthering the divide between the rich and the poor, and enabling the recession. I think F&E is great, $10 an hour is a great starting point, but where does it end, and how long does it take? I'm sure that cashier who is paid $18 an hour and puts more money back into the economy than F&E workers is wondering the same.

Barb said...

I stopped shopping at F & E after receiving a flyer from a picketer, doing online research and emailing the company. I was checking back today to see if any progress had been made. Although I liked F & E I am particular about the type of businesses I support. My hope is that the parent company will expand good benefits to American employees as well as their European counterparts.

UFCW Member said...

We are planning some more aggressive organizing and campaigning in Fresno at the Fresh & Easy stores. We have employees in three of the stores who are now very interested in becoming part of the UFCW. Also interest is growing at some of the other stores in our area.

Anonymous said...

I was at F & E in down town Fresno and one of the UFCW employees called me an idiot, he said "Oh, I remember this idiot". He didn't like me telling a customer that it's no wonder F & E dosn't whant to work with them after UFCW tried to stop them in the first place. Well I think this means " more aggressive organizing " by the UFCW. I have never had a problem with unions untill now. I don't see picketing at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. Both not unionized. I don't think this is as much about pay and hours as much as it is about an outsider getting in and the UFCW not getting thier way. The UFCW should be spending the union workers money on something more consructive than sending people out to stores to hand out flyers and call people names that disagree with them. And Just so you all know, the picketers said they were working. Hmmmmm, I wonder how much more money is wasted on paying the picketers and why they were not doing this for free out of the goodness of thier hearts? Hmmmmm?

Anonymous said...

I would support UFCW if they didn't talk down and aggresively to shoppers... one "member" called me an as*hole the other day for shopping at F & E.... no need for that! Now, I WILL NOT BE SHOPPING ANY UFCW SHOPS!

Anonymous said...

Fresh and Easy at Herndon and Fowler in Clovis is a wonderful store! The Union pickets were pretty aggressive today pushing a flyer in my face and then questioning my Americanism when I politely declined. I looked at the disheveled picketer in his grungy foreign made clothes and asked him if he really wanted to debate that. If he could tell me he was open to right to work laws I'd have entertained his disrespect a little longer.

Anonymous said...

Just saw this blog after shopping at F&E in Walnut, CA. I usually shop at WinCo but wanted to try F&E. Unfortunately, my wife and I were accosted by some UFCW gangsters, who spent several minutes telling us how F&E isn't being allowed to unionize. I asked if any had read Ayn Rand. Having gotten a negative answer, I told them to learn to read, before they spout falsehods.


Anonymous said...

Go ahead, unionize Fresh and Easy, their prices WILL go up and I won't shop there anymore. Unions are nothing but self serving socialists who are ruining this country. Look at what the CA state workers union has done to this state, 10% of the budget goes to pensions. It's a free country, if someone doesn't like the job or benefits, go bag groceries somewhere else, the employees there aren't exactly rocket scientists and should be easy to replace. I LOVE Fresh and Easy just the way it is, the unions WILL ruin it.

Anonymous said...

Did you bump your head? do want Americans to make poverty wages? I ran a store for them and quit for you can make more as a checker in Seattle. Idiot low wages hurt business we dont spend get it?

Anonymous said...

The CEO of F&E gets 9 million a year so does his second and third they are not even Americans, but guess what the Americans get 9 dollars an hour. They live in Pacific Palisides, call that fair go live in England then.

Anonymous said...

I shop at Fresh & Easy downtown. Same guy handing out fliers everyday in front of store. Really rude to customers if they do not take his flyer. Doesn't UFCW monitor the people they hire? Shouldn't there be a law that they have to at least stand 20 feet away from the door. These people are really rude!

F&E Employee said...

Wow, wages really that bad? I mean, I wish I could expect to make a living working in a comfortable manor only working at Target/Radio Shack/Best Buy/

Point is, if you are working at an entry level job that doesn't require more than a HS degree, maybe you shouldn't be complaining about your wages and how much you make. I mean, that's why we do have college and student loans to help you though that.

Anonymous said...

Union extortionist was a phrase used above; I could not have put that more aptly. 10/hour is a great entry level starting wage; I worked for less myself in San Diego more than once. What's funny here is that I know for a fact that unionized, large stores like Vons start people in entry level positions at *less* than that(min. wage) for three months then you're told to cough up a union enrollment sum/dues when you've been making frigging slave wages for 1/4 of a year - so they have a lot of turnover in entry level employees. I knew all of the staff at my neighbourhood F&E and almost all had been there since it opened. F&E does not have a lot of staff, does not have checkout people though their employees are always quick to help if needed. They have a great product line that is similar to what is available in Europe - not bloated with horrible additives, sugars and fillers since they're not even allowed here (oh yes, I'm an ex-pat now, moved to Ireland). I loved F&E and shopped there weekly. It's different from the regular grocery store, you do bag your own things and scan your own products, but I'd rather do that myself and save a lot. Good on F&E for standing up to the union bullies; getting paid $20/hour to stand at a till is crazy!

Anonymous said...

It is interesting that the UFCW is focusing on the F&E stores that are owned by Tesco (a UK company), but ignores Trader Joes which is owned by the Albrecht family (Germans who also own the Aldi grovery chain in Europe).

Arguing with the Union morons that sit outside my local Fresh and Easy is my favorite weekend passtime.

If you find them threatening simply call the local police department.

Anonymous said...

At the downtown F&E store in Fresno One of the Union people trys to block the entrance by walking back and forth in an effort to hinder customers entering the store. This is only creates enmity for the union - just the opposite of what they want! They need to picket without looking/acting mean and intimidating if they want to get people on their side. I didn't take the man's handout because I am already familiar with the union's position on F&E, so he yells out to me "I see you're one of those!" Well, he has no idea who or what I am - just so happens I am pretty left in most of my views, but it's really offensive when they behave in this rude and insulting manner and they now have turned me against them - I hope they fail.