Bashas' Sues United Food & Commercial Worker's Union

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Bashas' Sues United Food & Commercial Worker's Union

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Bashas' yesterday filed a lawsuit against the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) union in the Superior Court of Arizona, alleging that the union and its operatives defamed the grocer and intentionally interfered with its operations to extort an agreement for union representation.

"In the 75 years that our company has served Arizona, we've never been the target of such strong-arm tactics, and such ugly, malicious lies," said Bashas' president and c.o.o. Mike Proulx in a statement. "We will not allow the UFCW or its operatives to bully, intimidate, or harass our employees or our customers. This extortion has got to stop. Enough's enough."

Bashas' said it has been a target of the union since 2001, when the UFCW filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to unionize the grocer's Food City work force. In June 2002 the National Labor Relations Board rejected the petition to represent Food City employees. Less than a month after that ruling, the UFCW withdrew its petition.

The union then launched an aggressive campaign against Bashas', with the goal of pressuring management into voluntarily signing a union contract on behalf of its employees, rather than allowing them to vote for representation, the grocer alleged in the suit.

As part of its campaign, the UFCW created and funded "Hungry for Respect," which Bashas' referred to as "a sham organization designed to publicly disparage [the company] and its business practices." Bashas' charged that the group had repeatedly made false and defamatory statements about the retailer's treatment of its members/employees; its stores' cleanliness, and the company's treatment of Latino customers and employees.

Other pressure tactics on the UFCW's part included filing frivolous EEOC charges; distributing negative fliers, door hangers, and direct-mail pieces; organizing disruptive public demonstrations both inside and outside stores; and even planting expired products on store shelves, Bashas' contends.

"The UFCW has given Bashas' an ultimatum with two unacceptable choices - force Bashas' employees into their union, or the UFCW will destroy Bashas' business," noted Michael Manning, the attorney representing Bashas' in this lawsuit. "This complaint announces Bashas' response to the UFCW's ultimatum."

UFCW 99 communications coordinator Katy Giglio told Progressive Grocer that the retailer's suit was "about silencing Bashas' workers and consumers in the communities they do business in," and noted that instead of "engaging with their workers directly, they'd rather spend their resources in a courtroom." Giglio categorized Bashas' response as "exactly the kind of behavior" that has led "over 25,000 families" to join the Hungry for Respect group.

Family-owned and -operated Bashas' has over 160 grocery stores in Arizona, California, and New Mexico, under the Food City, AJ's Fine Foods, and Bashas' banners. The grocer employs more than 14,000 people.