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Thursday, July 23, 2009

IN ARIZONA, THE UFCW'S WAR ON WORKERS RIGHTS TAKES ITS TOLL

An Arizona Icon Falls Prey to the UFCW's Thuggery

"If we can't organize [nonunion supermarkets]," Tom McNutt, president of Local 400 of the United Food & Commercial Workers once stated, "the best thing to do is to erode their business as much as possible."

According to UnionFacts.com: This is the slash-and-burn theory driving UFCW's political-style PR offensive against Wal-Mart. Because the union has failed to organize workers at the chain, its leaders want to harm the company's bottom line and its employees.

"Organizing is war," according to longtime UFCW leader Joe Crump, and that means harassing nonunion employers and "costing them enough time and energy and money to either eliminate them or get them to surrender to the union." He added that employers must be made to "pay for operating nonunion." In an article titled "The Pressure is On: Organizing Without the NLRB," Crump wrote:
After a three-year struggle, the battle with Family Foods is over. Do we represent the employees? No. The company went out of business ... Perhaps even more important is the message that had been sent to nonunion competitors: There is no "free lunch" in our jurisdiction.
Speaking about the same campaign, former UFCW president Doug Dority argued that his union "must either reduce these chains' market share ... or we must put them out of business. There is no other option."

The UFCW's "Indecent Joy" at Taking Another Company Down

Bashas Supermarkets, Inc. had 14,000 employees not so long ago. To the UFCW, Bashas' 14,000 employee workforce meant approximately $420,000 (at $30 per month) in union dues every month, or $5,040,000 every year. [The chain is now down to 10,000 employees.]

The problem was, the UFCW didn't want the employees to vote on union representation through a secret-ballot, the UFCW wanted the Company to agree to "neutrality" and "card-check." In essence, like a gang of rustlers trying to steal a rancher's herd in the dead of night, the UFCW wanted the Bashas' family to turn their employees over to the union without a fight.

Well, in Arizona, the land of the famous Apache Warrior-Chief Geronimo, the home of Wyatt Earp during the days when cowboys would settle scores with their pistols like at the gunfight at the OK Corral, companies are not too keen on selling their employees out to pushy union bosses, just because the union wants their dues.

The stage was set for an old-fashioned showdown. The mud was slung, the rustlers used their dirty tricks and, unfortunately in this case, the gang of rustlers outnumbered the rancher and his cowhands.

As a result, the UFCW can now claim victory in causing more grocery workers to lose jobs as an Arizona icon, Bashas Supermarkets, Inc., filed for bankruptcy on Monday.

According to the Arizona Republic, here is what this grocery chain has had to tolerate during the UFCW's war to take away Bashas' employees' right to a secret-ballot:

Bashas' is tormented...by an international labor union that now is taking indecent joy in the company's woes.

The 1.4 million-member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union has conducted a years-long campaign to punish Bashas' for daring to resist its efforts to unionize company workers.

The union manufactured a dubious "scandal" about baby food sold at Bashas' stores. It launched a remorseless campaign, especially in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods, to turn loyal Bashas' customers away from the company.

It has organized rallies alleging, egregiously and falsely, that the Basha family is somehow anti-immigrant. It has spread baseless rumors about the cleanliness of Bashas' warehouses. And it has conducted a leaflet campaign characterizing Bashas' as a higher-cost supermarket than its competitors.

It would be one thing if any of the allegations against Bashas' were proved. They are not. It would be another thing if the Bashas' employees the union seeks to represent are underpaid compared with unionized workers elsewhere. They are not. Bashas' workers actually make slightly more than local union-represented supermarket employees. [Emphasis added.]

No, the UFCW has worked diligently to hound customers out of Bashas' stores because it has been denied what it desperately seeks: the estimated $30 to $50 per month it would reap in dues from each of Bashas' 12,000 workers.

Did the union's campaign play a significant role in driving Bashas' into bankruptcy?

Certainly Proulx and Senior Vice President Edward "Trey" Basha believe so. They have collected a thick stack of union-produced anti-Bashas' hate literature.

But while the true effect of UFCW's campaign is (and, likely, will remain)unquantifiable, the level of union hostility directed toward the company, and even toward the Basha family directly, is indisputably astonishing.

Anti-immigrant? Anti-minority? Bashas' food stores operate in neighborhoods and regions of the state where no other supermarket chain will go. The company has an entire division - Bashas' Diné - devoted exclusively to Navajo Nation stores.

Bashas' has much work to do to escape Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It would be good if it could climb out of its deep economic hole without fearing that union thugs will be waiting, laden with lies, up top.

A History of Dirty Tactics Used on Arizona's Union-Free Chains

As the Republic notes:


The union lost a bid in 2002 to represent workers at Bashas' Food City Hispanic markets and tried to organize the whole company in 2006 when Bashas' changed its health-care plan without consulting the union.

In its bid to represent Bashas' employees, the UFCW has used boycotts, pickets, tactics designed to scare customers and a raft of federal complaints with the National Labor Relations Board and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and other agencies, Manning said.

Bashas' countered with a 2007 defamation/racketeering lawsuit against the union that recently amended to include extortion. The suit alleges the union threatened to "destroy" Bashas' with the same tactics it used on Southwest Supermarkets and MegaFoods, if it didn't allow the UFCW in to represent its employees.

Southwest and MegaFoods were non-union stores, like Bashas', that earlier filed for Chapter 11 protection and ultimately went out of business.

"We can't force union representation on our employees," Proulx said of the company's decision not to let the union in. "That's something they have a right to vote on."

Sadly, while this Arizona icon falls, the biggest losers of all are Bashas' employees and the citizens of the Grand Canyon state.

Note: The writer of this post grew up in Arizona and, from time to time, would shop at Bashas'.

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