Monday, December 20, 2010
Glassell Park-Los Angeles Store Workers Catalysts For New UFCW Campaign to Unionize Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market
Workers at the Glassell Park neighborhood Fresh & Easy store in Los Angeles, who say they have an employee-majority in favor of joining the UFCW union and becoming a union shop, speak out to fellow employees at other stores in the video above, which is part of a new multi-faceted campaign to unionize the Tesco-owned chain.
Breaking Buzz - News & Analysis
[Related Story - December 20, 2010: UFCW Union Launches New 'Fix Fresh & Easy' Neighborhood Market Website and Social Media-Based Campaign]
In July of this year we broke the news that a majority of employees who work at the Fresh & Easy store at 4211 Eagle Rock Boulevard in the Glassell Park neighborhood in northeast Los Angeles, California agreed among themselves to join the UFCW union, and formally requested recognition from executives at Tesco-owned Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's corporate headquarters in El Segundo, California.
Read our story here - July 24, 2010: Employees at the Glassell Park-Eagle Rock Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Store in Los Angeles Seeking Union Recognition From Tesco
Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, through the company's head of human resources, told the worker-majority at the Glassell Park store they would have to go through a federal government monitored open ballot election, which is what most non-union U.S. companies tell employees to do if they want to join a union, winning a majority of votes from all the employees, in order to be recognized by Tesco as a union shop. The Los Angeles store, like the other 154 small-format Fresh & Easy markets in California, Nevada and Arizona, employs 20-25 workers, not including the store manager.
Since we published our piece in July, employees at the store in Los Angeles, which was one of the first units in the chain to open three years ago, had been considering their next move.
A spokesperson for the Glassell Park store worker-majority recently told Fresh & Easy Buzz that although they still have a majority of store employees in favor of joining the UFCW union, they've decided for now they don't want to move for a union election for a variety of reasons.
Among the reasons the worker-majority has decided not to move for an election is the fact that as part of the election process, employers are allowed to bring in labor consultants (which unions refer to as union busters), who along with company executives can hold meetings with workers, where they can attempt to convince the employees to vote against unionization in the election prior to voting day. The union is also able to lobby the employees to vote for unionization as part of the election process, according to U.S. federal labor law.
The results of such an election - pro or con - are binding only for the one store. However, the outcome has a major influence on weather an entire chain remains non-union or becomes unionized. Therefore, the stakes of the outcome of such an election are high for all parties involved - Tesco's Fresh & Easy, the store employees and the UFCW union.
Instead of moving for a formal vote, the workers at the Eagle Rock Boulevard Fresh & Easy market in Los Angeles instead plan to try to convince the management of Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market to recognize their majority desire to become members of the UFCW union using means other than an open ballot election - at least for the near-term.
Earlier today we reported on a new website and social media-based campaign launched today by the UFCW union. [See - December 20, 2010: UFCW Union Launches New 'Fix Fresh & Easy' Neighborhood Market Website and Social Media-Based Campaign
The campaign, called Fix Fresh & Easy, is in large part the result of the success the employees of the Glassell Park, Los Angeles, Fresh & Easy store have had in gaining a majority towards their goal of becoming a union grocery store.
The Fix Fresh & Easy website and campaign are also in large part the result of the decision the store workers have made to not seek a formal union/non-union election.
The store's employees and the UFCW union have decided for now that rather than moving for an open ballot election at the Glassell Park Fresh & Easy market, they will instead launch a multi-faceted campaign, building on the recent success of the Los Angeles store workers' success in gaining a majority.
The new Fix Fresh & Easy website and social media-based campaign is part of that multi-faceted organizational effort and public relations campaign.
On another website set up by the UFCW, FreshandEasyVoice.com, which is linked at the new Fix Fresh & Easy website, employees of the Glassell Park store have authored and posted an open letter to their fellow Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market store employees, informing them they've gained a union majority at the Los Angeles store, and inviting them to join in the campaign to unionize, following the Eagle Rock Boulevard store employee model. You can read the open letter here.
FreshandEasyVoice.com, which is targeted to Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market store employees primarily, also offers additional organizational information and serves as a companion website to Fix Fresh & Easy.com, which is geared to a wider audience.
The tone of the store workers' letter strikes tones consistent with the new campaign to "Fix Fresh & Easy," in that it offers considerable positive comments about the grocery chain, suggesting that if it were unionized, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market would then be even better than it already is.
This is a new approach from the UFCW union in two ways. First, unlike its ongoing campaign over the last three years, this new, element takes a much more positive and consultative approach. It's our analysis that this is the case in part because the new focus is employee-led, building on the ability of the Glassell Park Fresh & Easy store employees gaining a majority in favor of unionization.
This employee-led element, along with the new focus on "Fixing Fresh & Easy," could mark a significant turning point for the UFCW in its three-year effort to organize employees of United Kingdom-based Tesco's 155-store fresh food and grocery chain.
The UFCW union has been criticised by a fair number of shoppers for some of its organizational tactics, like heavy store picketing, which the union doesn't plan on stopping although it's doing it much less frequently than it did in the past, suggesting Tesco is a purveyor of unsafe food, based on past cases of outdated products being discovered in its stores in the United Kingdom, and other more aggressive tactics. The UFCW has said it's had to use these tactics because Tesco has been spending tons of money and playing hardball in its fight to prevent the stores from being unionized, despite public statements from company executives saying that if the employees want a union it's up to them to vote on in.
It's too early to tell if the new focus, adding a more positive element to the traditional organizational tactics, will work. But one thing is for sure: The new developments at the end of 2010 mark the beginnings of renewed efforts by the UFCW union to organize Fresh & Easy store workers, as well as to build support for those efforts among various stakeholders, including Tesco shareholders, the media and shoppers. And as we reported earlier today, the UFCW union plans to put an added focus on organizing Fresh & Easy store employees beginning fairly early in 2011.
Stay tuned. Fresh & Easy Buzz will be covering the UFCW-Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market unionization topic and issue closely, along with offering extensive analysis, as we've been doing for three years.
Click here, here and here for a selection of our past stories about the UFCW union and its campaign to unionize store-level employees at Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market. Note: Click on the green "older posts" and "newer posts" links at the bottom of each page for additional posts.