May 17, 2007
Coalition Asks Consumers to Support Good Jobs by Pledging Not To Shop
At Albertsons, Ralphs or Vons in Case of a Strike or Lockout
Los Angeles—Community and religious leaders today joined more than 100 grocery workers and union members in launching the “Walk for Respect” campaign, a massive public outreach effort designed to help restore good jobs among the supermarket industry’s top three chains.
In the coming weeks, thousands of volunteers across Southern California will blanket neighborhoods around stores with pledge cards asking consumers not to shop at Ralphs, Vons or Albertsons stores in the case of a lockout or strike. The program will continue until the three chains agree to once again provide decent wages and affordable health insurance to their employees.
Grocery workers at Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons stores are currently locked in contract negotiations for the first time since the bitter four-and-a-half-month strike and lockout in 2003-2004. That contract expired March 5, and the stores have dragged out negotiations with a series of extensions in a bid to get further concessions from employees, despite record profits and declining non-union competition.
“Grocery workers haven’t had a wage increase since 2002, yet the markets are making billions in profits,” said Chris Zazueta, a veteran employee of Ralphs. “New workers have to wait up to 18 months to even become eligible for benefits, and 30 months to get health care for their kids. No wonder turnover among new employees is as high as 85%.”
As community leaders, supporters and members from numerous Los Angeles labor unions gathered for a rally in front of an Albertsons store in Burbank, the frustrations with the stores’ tactics and the effects on workers and local communities became clear.
“Grocery workers have historically been pillars of communities across Southern California. For decades, the supermarkets provided jobs with decent wages and health benefits, located directly within our neighborhoods,” said Reverend Anna Olson, Deputy Director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE). “But times have changed. Now the markets are in a race to the bottom, undermining good jobs and our communities in the process.”
The contract imposed on workers following the lockout and strike severely curtailed benefits and wages for new employees, and denied any wage increases to veteran workers.
“The erosion of middle-class jobs impacts all of us,” said Rabbi Haim Beliak of Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace. “Our communities don’t need more people living one paycheck from the edge. We don’t need more uninsured families forced into emergency rooms and free clinics. The markets are making record profits. It is time for them to give back to the communities that make their success possible, or the communities must withhold their support.”
Of the 44,000 workers hired since 2004, less than 3,800 have health care, and less than 80 have coverage for their children.
A recent UC Berkeley study estimated that 20,000 fewer children have access to health care because of the changes since the strike and lockout.
“Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons need to understand they are part of our community,” said Manuel Hernandez, a community organizer with AGENDA. “They need to act like a good corporate citizen. That means providing fair wages and healthcare for their employees. They can afford it, and it’s the right thing to do. We need more good jobs in our neighborhoods.”
Immediately after the rally, volunteers walked door to door in the surrounding neighborhoods and stood in front of the store to gather pledges from consumers not to shop at Ralphs, Vons or Albertsons in the event of a lockout or strike.
The Walk for Respect program launched simultaneously across Southern California, with volunteers walking in communities from Bakersfield to the Mexican border.
“We’ll keep this up until we the stores begin to treat us and our communities with respect,” said Sharlette Villacorta, a longtime Albertsons employee on leave to work on the contract campaign. “The employers are making billions because of our hard work. They need to do their fair share and provide good, middle class jobs that nourish our communities.”
April 16, 2007
WASHINGTON, DC — Grocery workers are standing up to protect good jobs with affordable health care in communities across the country. Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union in eight markets are holding store events today and sending a unified message to supermarket giants.
Supermarkets chains nationwide, like Supervalu, are refusing to agree to provide the affordable health care and living wages their employees deserve. Communities may end up paying the price, with taxpayers shouldering the burden of government paid health care.
Workers are taking action and reaching out to customers at Supervalu-owned stores in Southern California, Oregon, Seattle, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Workers at Kroger stores in Toledo and Houston are bargaining with the company now and holding press events in solidarity with the national action.
UFCW members at Supervalu-owned stores – Albertsons, Jewel, Cub Foods, and Acme stores, are concerned about Supervalu’s bargaining agenda with workers in other markets.
“It’s really important that everybody throughout the country has decent contracts, with benefits and wages that allow them to support their families,” says Eileen Fonseca, a Supervalu-owned Acme worker and a member of UFCW Local 1776 in Philadelphia.
Albertsons (Supervalu) workers in Southern California were locked out by the company in a bitter five-month-long strike/lockout in 2003 and 2004. Now, Albertsons (Supervalu) employees there have already voted to authorize a strike due to the company’s irresponsible position at the bargaining table. The current contract expired last month.
“”I want to provide a good life for my family, and I work hard for my employer. Now that the employers are making such huge profits, I think they need to show grocery workers and our families the respect we deserve,” said Sharlette Villacorta, UFCW Local 770 member who works at Albertsons, in Los Angeles, Calif.
With more than 400,000 grocery workers at the bargaining table this year, UFCW members have launched Grocery Workers United – www.groceryworkersunited.com – as a clearinghouse for unity actions.
“We all do the same jobs, and we all work hard,” said Mike Newman, a Kroger worker from Toledo and member of UFCW Local 911. “We just want to be able to pay our bills, and I think the community understands that. They know what you need to make a living wage here.”
The actions today are all part of a growing national unity bargaining movement among UFCW members working in the grocery industry.
This year, 400,000 UFCW members working the grocery industry will be negotiating contracts with their employers, seeking to improve jobs for all grocery workers. The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers, with nearly one million in the grocery industry.
April 5, 2007
Washington DC—The announcement of a mutual aid pact among Southern California Grocers—Albertsons (Supervalu), Ralphs (Kroger) and Vons (Safeway)—hastily ended contract talks between the supermarket chains and their employees represented by seven United Food and Commercial Workers Local Unions (UFCW).
“The supermarkets are up to their old tricks,” said UFCW International Vice President and Region 8 Director Shaun Barclay. “This pact fits the same pattern of their actions three years ago when they forced UFCW members and their families into the streets and disrupted shoppers for nearly five months in a grab to end meaningful health care coverage for employees.”
Talks with national supermarket chains had been ongoing in Southern California for nearly three months.
In the meantime, Stater Bros. and Gelson’s—two smaller Southern California regional chains—and the UFCW reached model agreements, providing wage increases, the end to second-class status for new workers and a return to providing affordable, quality health coverage for all employees.
Supervalu, Kroger, and Safeway all enjoy annual sales that are 10 to 20 times bigger than Stater Bros. and Gelson’s. The smaller chains don’t have the economies of scale in their warehousing and distribution networks, nor do they have the clout with major manufacturers and vendors that the national chains command. And they face the same non-union competition in the Southern California market that is overwhelmingly unionized.
“Given that the big grocers say they want to ‘serve the interests of our employees, customers, and companies,’ it’s a no-brainer for these national companies to reach a settlement along the lines of the Stater Bros. and Gelson’s agreements,” said Barclay. “They’re making record profits and hold dominant positions in markets across the country where they operate.”
“But,” he continued, “forming this pact speaks louder than words. It certainly appears that the big grocers have no interest in recognizing UFCW members for their partnership in the impressive success of their companies. It seems they have no interest in the effects their position will have on employees, families, shoppers and communities.”
Approximately 400,000 UFCW members are negotiating contracts with retail food operators in 2007. Most work for Kroger, Safeway or Supervalu. Talks have begun in the Puget Sound area, Eugene, Oregon, Houston, and Toledo, Ohio.
“”UFCW members across the country are tuned in to what’s happening in Southern California. They know everyone, including their customers, has a stake in what happens in these negotiations out here,”” said Barclay.
January 8, 2007
After nearly a decade of litigation, an agreement-in-principle has been entered into for concluding the Albertsons’ off-the-clock case and distributing $53.3 among UFCW members and other workers and former workers who brought a class-action off-the- clock suit against the company. The court has given preliminary approval to the settlement and a hearing will be held on March 22, 2007, to determine the court’s final approval. Claimants will be receiving notice, within the next several weeks, of the court’s preliminary approval and the amount they would receive under the settlement upon the court’s final approval. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union had been assisting workers throughout the eleven-year process and is pleased that an agreement-in-principle has been reached.
After settling the case six years ago, litigation over the claims process has delayed justice for the thousands of workers affected by Albertsons’ practices.
The giant retail food grocer was purchased in 2006 by the Minnesota-based SuperValu chain. The new owners deserve credit for bringing this long chapter to a close and moving the process forward so that the workers’ case could be resolved.
If given final approval by the court:
· Albertsons would pay $53.3 million to be apportioned among the claimants, with individual payouts being based on information submitted in individual claims, the clarity of that information, and the timeliness of its submission;
· Payouts could occur as early as spring 2007.
The class counsels’ website, www.albsuits.com, of the law firm of Webster, Mrak & Blumberg, will be updated shortly to include a copy of the notice, and class counsel will then be available to answer any questions of claimants about the proposed resolution and individual claims. Class counsel can be contacted by claimants toll-free at 1-888-222-5729 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The UFCW represents 1.3 million members with one million working in the supermarket industry.
June 8, 2006
(Washington, DC) – Albertsons Supermarket CEO Larry Johnston and his management team ran the national grocery chain into the ground and then sold off the remains–crippling communities and leaving workers’ lives in turmoil in the process. They deserve to suffer the same fate as the workers they’ve put out of jobs. So why are they receiving multimillion dollar compensation packages?
Apparently, it’s the American way. After all, it’s not just Albertsons—CEO pay is skyrocketing across all industries. In 1960, the average CEO made 41 times more than the average worker. By 2004, the average CEO was making 431 times that of the average worker! And much of this money goes to CEOs whose poor performance is driving their companies, and their workers, into financial ruin.
The $17.7 billion sale of Albertsons to Minnesota grocer SuperValu, drug store chain CVS Corp. and a group of private investors led by Cerberus Capital Management, is the latest example of corporate greed gone haywire. The deal provides multimillion dollar “golden parachute” packages to the former Albertsons’ executives. In addition to CEO Larry Johnston, four other former executives received eight-figure compensation packages.
A “golden parachute” is a term for the clause in executives’ contracts that provide special compensation packages in case they lose their employment through an acquisition or a merger. The Albertsons board approved the compensation packages, and has repeatedly refused to discuss the details of executive compensation.
And while Albertsons’ former executives coast on their golden parachutes, their workers are being put out of work. On Tuesday, Albertsons announced that it is closing 37 stores in Northern California — about one-fifth of its total Northern California stores.
Workers are being left out in the cold while Larry Johnston and his cohorts enjoy their multi-million dollar reward packages:
- Johnston, Albertsons’ president, chairman and chief executive officer: $105.5 million.
- Robert Dunst, executive vice president of technology and supply chain and the chief technology officer: $16.1 million.
- Paul Gannon, executive vice president for marketing and food operations: $15.5 million.
- John Sims, executive vice president and general counsel: $15.2 million.
- Felicia Thornton, executive vice president and chief financial officer: $17.2 million.
Albertsons first agreed to sell the company to Supervalu, CVS, and the investor realty group in January. Albertsons operates around 2500 stores in 37 states, and employs about 86,200 UFCW members in its various stores who will be affected by the sale.
“Is this the kind America we want – one that rewards CEOs for doing a bad job and leaving workers foot the bill? Albertsons workers deserve better. We will continue to fight to protect supermarket workers from corporate greed run amok,” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen.
The UFCW is America’s neighborhood union, representing 1.4 million members in the supermarket, food processing, meatpacking and other industries. UFCW is a member of the Change to Win Federation of unions.
January 23, 2006
September 12, 2005
STATEMENT BY UFCW INTERNATIONAL UNION PRESIDENT JOE HANSEN ON ALBERTSONS, INC., PLANS TO SALE COMPANY
Washington—Recent announcements by Albertsons, the Boise, Idaho, based supermarket chain, that the company would, then wouldn’t, and now apparently will sell the entire company seems to have been made without appropriate concern for the kind of uncertainty this causes store employees, communities the grocer serves or shareholders.
UFCW local unions representing nearly 110,000 Albertsons workers nationwide will be mailing each UFCW Albertsons member a letter this week fully informing them of current developments with the assurance that the UFCW will continue to aggressively represent our members and enforce all union contract provisions while the company seeks a buyer.
UFCW-represented Albertsons employees have helped make the company a major nationwide force in the supermarket industry. In fact, the chain’s most successful and profitable markets are comprised of stores with UFCW-represented workers.
The UFCW intends to protect all Albertson’s employees and the community members who make up Albertsons’ customer base by ensuring that their interests, along with that of Albertsons’ shareholders, are well served.
Consequently, we will actively engage Albertsons and its suitors to ensure that all of the company’s stakeholders emerge from the current situation with a more promising future than Albertsons’ current management thinks it can deliver.
September 12, 2005
Statement by UFCW International Union President Joe Hansen on Alberstons, Inc., Plans to Explore Sale of Company
Washington—The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) represents nearly 110,000 Albertsons employees nationwide.
The UFCW will continue to aggressively represent our members and enforce all union contract provisions while the company explores a possible sale of the supermarket chain.
UFCW-represented Albertsons employees have helped make the company a major nationwide force in the supermarket industry.
Should Albertsons decide to sell the company, UFCW expects any buyer to fully abide by the terms of our union contracts and respect the long-term dedication and experience of Albertsons employees. The UFCW would also look forward to working with a buyer, should a sale become a reality, to ensure the successful operation of the company and the long-term security of our members.
August 29, 2005
Washington, DC – Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart and ASDA, its British subsidiary, achieved a new level of global irony this weekend calling for a government investigation into the market dominance of one of its foreign competitors, TESCO. As reported by The Sunday Times, Scott demanded that the British Government investigate its chief grocery rival TESCO because of what Scott sees as the company’s growing market dominance in Britain. Scott stated that “”as you get to over 30 percent and higher, I am sure there is a point where government is compelled to intervene….at some point the Government has to look at it.””
“”Scott criticizing TESCO for its market dominance is like Enron criticizing Arthur Anderson for its accounting practices. Wal-Mart is using its immoral business practices as a competitive advantage over responsible corporations. The question for Wal-Mart should be when will Wal-Mart demand an investigation of itself?”” said, Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com
Lee Scott’s statement is especially ironic in light of the facts about Wal-Mart’s market share here in the United States.
Here are the facts:
Wal-Mart accounts for 60% of the sales for the $379 billion market called Discount Department and General Merchandise stores.
Wal-Mart’s general merchandise dominance means it has sales nearly 5 times more than their next closest competitor and double the sales of their next 3 closest competitors (Costco, Target and Kmart) combined.
Wal-Mart controls approximately 24% of grocery sales in the United States (more than double its next closest competitor), very similar to TESCO’s position in the United Kingdom.
Wal-Mart sells more groceries than their top 3 competitors combined.
Wal-Mart sells 30% of household staples bought in the United States, including items such as toothpaste, shampoo, and paper towels, according to Business Week.
A report prepared by Retail Forward in 2003 forecasted that Wal-Mart’s domestic supermarket-type sales could go from an estimated $82 billion to $162 billion by 2007. In the process, Wal-Mart will consume almost a third of the expected growth in US spending on grocery and drug products during 2003-2007. Growth of this magnitude would give Wal-Mart control of 35% of food store industry sales and 25% of the drug store industry – and put many entrenched players in jeopardy.
Grocery Industry statistics Ranked by Percentage:24% Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club
Discount department & General Merchandise stores ($379 billion) Ranked by sales:
Wal-Mart & Sam’s Club $229 bill
Costco $47 bill
Target $47 bill
Kmart $20 bill
February 24, 2005
Wal-Mart used children for hazardous jobs in its U.S. stores according to a U.S. Labor Department investigation as reported in the New York Times on February 12, 2005. Wal-Mart is being sued for sexual harassment in Florida by the federal government as reported in the Bradenton Herald on February 18, 2005. Wal-Mart was cited in Alabama for having the most employees on taxpayer-funded Medicaid health program as reported in the Associated Press on February 22, 2005. Wal-Mart is the target of a Georgia legislative initiative on companies with large number of employees receiving taxpayer-funded health care after it was revealed the retail giant ranked number one for employees on the government health program as reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on February 23, 2005.
In a ten-day period, Wal-Mart compiled a virtually unmatched public record of abusive, illegal and irresponsible conduct involving women, children and taxpayers. These most recent reports come on top of Wal-Mart already facing the largest sex discrimination lawsuit in history, court convictions for forcing employees to work without pay, and government complaints for the illegal firing and intimidation of workers for exercising workplace rights. In Canada, Wal-Mart is closing a store and taking away the livelihoods of almost 200 workers rather than comply with the law providing a fair and impartial process to reach a contract with workers.
So what does Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott do? He delivers a speech attacking the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).
In his speech delivered in Los Angeles yesterday, Scott glibly ignored the company’s very public record of shameful conduct; blamed the UFCW and other critics (the “guppies” according an earlier Scott pronouncement) for his problems; and, created an alternative reality where low wages, unaffordable benefits, the massive export of U.S. jobs to overseas sweatshops, the suppression of worker rights and taxpayer subsidies for the giant retailer have somehow made the world a better place.
The Scott speech continues a public relations offensive launched several weeks ago to prop up the company’s sagging image, pump up stagnate stock prices, and sidestep holiday season reports that competitors from Sears to Best Buy offered lower prices. The speech contains the same willful distortions and Orwellian double-talk as the company’s ad campaign. Repeating a lie does not make it true.
Scott brags, as did the ads, about the number of full-time employees– except full time in Wal-Mart speak is about 30 hours a week, not 40 hours as in the rest of reality. Scott proudly proclaims that Wal-Mart’s average wages are about twice the minimum wage. He ignores that Wal-Mart uses its enormous political clout– the largest political giver in 2004– to keep the minimum wage in real terms at its lowest level in decades. Even at the supposed Wal-Mart average wage, a family with a Wal-Mart income is still left scraping the poverty line. Scott cites Wal-Mart health insurance as a positive, but fails to mention that 700,000 Wal-Mart associates do not have the company’s health insurance, and that those who do, pay more on average than employees of other major companies.
In instance after instance, Scott contorts the facts to serve his own purposes. He cites the lack of opposition to his company in communities across California, and declares opposition to Wal-Mart is limited to urbanized areas– except the overwhelming majority of Californians live in those urbanized areas. He talks about company tax payments, but doesn’t mention the tax costs the retailer imposes on states and communities with its low wages and lack of affordable health benefits.
Despite Scott’s protestations, Wal-Mart is not just a simple retailer. Wal-Mart is the largest single economic force in history. It is the largest private employer in the country, and the largest corporation in the world. Walton family members comprise five of the ten richest people in the world. About one percent of the wealth of just one of the Walton richest five would provide affordable health insurance for all Wal-Mart workers in the U.S. Wal-Mart is about high profits, not low prices.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union has 1.4 million members working in neighborhood supermarkets, retail stores, meat packing and food processing plants. UFCW retail members work for major retailers such as Kroger, Safeway and Albertsons.