Sunday, September 28, 2008

British Grocer Invades California, Workers Fight Back

Grocery workers in Huntington Beach have asked the leadership of British-based Tesco, which operates the new grocery chain Fresh & Easy for labor union recognition. The company has taken the position in the United States that they will follow federal labor laws, and that unionism will be up to the employees. Tesco has been pressured by the UFCW to voluntarily allow employees to unionize since opening.

Reports are now coming forth that there may be more Tesco stores interested in joining union ranks. A post on the blog Fresh & Easy Buzz mentions two additional Fresh & Easy stores may soon make a request to the leadership of Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market to have their desire to join the UFCW sanctioned by the grocery chain.

According to the Fresh & Easy Buzz blog, both of the stores are located in Southern California. It appears as if much of the interest at the stores was generated by a UFCW member who has been working at that store for many months. This tactic was also utilized at the Huntington Beach store, which was the initial Tesco owned site to request consideration for accepting a union for the employees.

So far, there has been no public response by Tesco to the requests to unionize. Under U.S. law, the chain does not have to accept a request to unionize. They may request an election which would determine the outcome based upon a choice by the majority of employees. Tesco has been under pressure by the UFCW to voluntarily recognize the union. Even presidential candidate Barack Obama has been involved, sending a letter to Tesco chairman Sir Terry Leahy requesting the voluntary recognition of the union by Tesco.

All the Tesco stores affected so far are in Southern California, a market which is served by a large number of unionized supermarket chains including Vons, Ralphs, Albertsons, Save Mart, and Stater Bros.

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