Union, elected officials call on grocers to end restrictions on where they can work
SPANAWAY, Wash. (Sept. 21, 2015) — Flanked by members wearing their signature gold shirts, UFCW Local 367 President Denise Jagielo and elected officials on Friday called upon Haggen and Albertsons-Safeway to show some respect to their hard-working employees who suddenly find their jobs and livelihoods at risk in the wake of the grocery stores’ merger/bankruptcy debacle.
“These hard-working men and women deserve the dignity and respect to work for the company they choose,” Jagielo said. “We call on all the parties involved in this to give you what you deserve: dignity and respect.”
When Safeway and Albertsons merged, federal antitrust regulators forced the sale of 168 stores. Bellingham-based Haggen, which had just 18 stores, stepped in and acquired 146 Albertsons-Safeway locations in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and Nevada. But since then, Haggen has struggled. Earlier this summer it announced the closure of 27 stores, including the Spanaway store that has 56 UFCW Local 367 members. On Sept. 8, Haggen filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization and is poised to close or sell many more stores.
Meanwhile, it’s the former Albertsons-Safeway employees who now work for Haggen who are paying the price for this corporate merger intrigue and displacement. Notice of the closures and bankruptcy was not shared with employees, many of whom worked for Albertsons-Safeway for decades, and they are understandably anxious about their job security. In addition, language in the merger agreement imposes a one-year ban preventing Albertsons-Safeway from hiring workers from the 146 stores it sold to Haggen.
This language was meant to protect Haggen from having its employees poached, but now that the bankrupt Haggen plans to shed stores, the ban stands in the way of job security for thousands of grocery workers.
“I am proud to join my friends at UFCW Local 367 in calling on the corporate leadership at Haggen and Alberstons-Safeway to work together to ensure that employees have the freedom to seek new, full-time employment at stores of their choice and are afforded every opportunity to get back to serving their community,” said District Director Joe Dacca on behalf of U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-6th).
UFCW Local 367 member Chris Brown, who dedicated 25 years of his career to Safeway, said, “We should be allowed to go back to Safeway.”
“I think what is going on here is absolutely wrong,” said state Sen. Steve Conway (D-29th). “We need to help these workers get on their way to a new job so they can take care of their families.”
“It is right and necessary for you to have the option for seeking and securing immediate employment as soon as possible,” said Roel van Der Luge from Congressman Denny Heck’s office. “(The congressman) wants this matter resolved as soon as possible so you and your families can go back to work as soon as you can.”
Backed with the support of 1.4 million UFCW members nationwide, Jagielo declared, “From Spanaway to San Diego, we deserve dignity and respect.”
UFCW Local 367 represents 726 members in 11 Haggen Stores throughout Western Washington, and 7,000 retail workers in other grocery and retail stores.