Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Update

Fresh & Easy and the UFCW Union:

It looks like 2008 could add an additional element of excitement to what promises to already be an exciting year for Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market venture in the Western U.S.

According to two publications (and we've confirmed the story with our sources), the United Food & Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) plans to launch an aggressive organizing campaign this year, targeting Fresh & Easy store clerks at the retailer's stores in California, Arizona and Nevada. The goal is to get the retail clerks to vote on whether or not they want to be represented by the union.

According to a December 30, 2007 story in the blog, Fresh & Easy Buzz, California will be "ground zero" for the union's organizing campaign, which our sources tell us could begin as early as this month. Read the piece in the Fresh & Easy Buzz blog here.

The union is feeling strong as it just recently signed a contract agreement with California's major supermarket chains for its retail clerk members. The UFCW is calling the contract "the best ever in the U.S." for supermarket retail clerks. On the heals of this four year contract, the union wants to organize Tesco Fresh & Easy workers because the British grocer has plans to become a major player in food retailing in California and the Western USA, as we've reported extensively here.

In another piece on the issue, published in today's Sacramento Bee newspaper, the Bee is reporting that Tesco's Fresh & Easy grocery markets can look for a "Wal-Mart style" campaign from the UFCW in terms of its efforts to unionize Fresh & Easy store clerks. By "Wal-Mart style" campaign, the Bee is referring to efforts by the union like its sponsorship of the website, that writes about everything Wal-Mart from a labor, ethical and social point of view, and generally not in a positive manner.

In fact, the Bee story reports the UFCW has set up a website called "Fresh & Queasy" in which it is at present posting information about Tesco in its home country of Britain. Read the story in today's Sacramento Bee here.

Fresh & Easy Buzz says it located a website called "Fresh & Queasy" on You Tube, but that to date it hasn't had much activity: very few postings and very few page hits.

Our union sources confirmed the information on both the Fresh & Easy Buzz blog and in today's Sacramento Bee article.

The UFCW hasn't had much luck in organizing workers at other major, non-union grocers in California and the west. These include Whole Foods Market, Inc., Wal-Mart (its supercenters) and Trader Joe's, who's corporate headquarters is in Southern California. And, although the retail clerks' union will continue trying to get store clerks at these grocer's stores to hold union votes, it seems its main target for 2008 will be Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market.

As we've reported here (just do a search on Fresh and Easy), 2008 is going to be a big year for Tesco's Fresh & Easy. For example:

>Scores of new stores will open in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada.
>Its 850,000 square foot distribution center in Riverside County in Southern California should be fully operation later this year as the grocer solves some regulation issues which have prevented it from being fully-operation thus far.
>Fresh & Easy will open its first stores in Northern California sometime this year.
>By late spring the first stores will have been open for six months, which will give the retailer an idea of how things have gone since the launch.

Add to these developments the organizing activity planned by the UFCW for this year, and it should be an event-packed 2008 for Tesco's Fresh & Easy on all fronts--retail, distribution, real estate, economic and socio-political.

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