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Allegations of Unfair Labor Practices Against Smart & Final Escalate

California politician calls for regulatory, legislative or enforcement actions
Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer
smart & final
Smart & Final plans to close two unionized warehouses in Commerce and Riverside, Calif., terminating more than 600 warehouse workers.

On July 1, U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., sent an oversight request to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Transportation (DOT), outlining concerns regarding Chedraui/Smart & Final's unfair labor practices (ULPs) and calling for regulatory, legislative or enforcement actions.

The letter comes as the grocery chain plans to close two unionized Smart & Final warehouses in Commerce and Riverside, Calif., terminating more than 600 warehouse workers and forcing them to reapply for employment at $10-$12 less per hour at a new nonunion mega-warehouse in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. The workers represented by Teamsters Local 630 are currently on strike, protesting the mass layoffs and other ULPs by the company.

In the letter, Rep. Gomez uses Smart & Final's behavior as a case study in unfair practices that may currently operate outside the existing labor and cross-border trucking provisions of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), noting that Congress should consider whether new solutions are necessary to address these unfair practices as it prepares for a potential review and term extension of the USMCA in 2026. The USMCA was passed four years ago.

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"Smart & Final and their parent company Chedraui think they are above the law, but they're in for a rude awakening. We will stop at nothing to make sure our members' jobs are protected," said Lou Villalvazo, secretary-treasurer of Los Angeles-based Local 630. "Instead of negotiating a fair contract, refraining from unfair labor practices, and operating as a high-road employer, Chedraui USA CEO Carlos Smith has chosen to disrespect his workers in the name of corporate greed. The Teamsters will keep up the pressure in the streets and in the halls of government to hold this company accountable."

Progressive Grocer did not receive a response to a request for comment from Chedraui at press time. 

The two warehouses where Teamsters are currently on strike serve as distribution centers for more than 250 Smart & Final grocery stores in California, Nevada, Arizona and northern Mexico. This is the second ULP strike held by Teamsters against the company. 

The union is currently pursuing a wide range of ULP charges before the National Labor Relations Board. Chedraui/Smart & Final is also accused of bad-faith bargaining and maintaining an illegal proposal that violates California Assembly Bill (AB) 647, which went into effect in January and guarantees grocery distribution center workers' retention rights when the facilities at which they work undergo a change in control.

Based in Commerce, Calif., Smart & Final was acquired in 2021 by Chedraui USA, a Los Angeles-based grocery retailer with 25,000 associates at 380 store locations across three banners: Fiesta Mart, El Super, and Smart & Final. That business is a subsidiary of Mexican supermarket operator Grupo Comercial Chedraui, which is No. 50 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2024 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America

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