California Controller Urges Safeway to End Strike

SAN FRANCISCO - California State Controller Steve Westly said on Tuesday he has urged Safeway Inc. to end the grocery workers' strike, according to Reuters.

Westly said he sent a letter on Tuesday to Safeway's board, urging a resolution of the strike in Southern California. He said Safeway was risking its brand and financial standing by following the example of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

"Safeway claims that health benefit cuts are required to compete with large retailers, such as Wal-Mart, which provide nominal health care benefits," Westly wrote.

"The lowest common denominator should not be the standard for an established member of the corporate community, and I'm surprised Safeway, given its strong reputation with millions of California consumers, would treat its employees in this manner," Westly said.

Westly is joined by Rob Feckner, a fellow member of the board of administration of Calpers, the California Public Employees' Retirement System, who told financial services firm Alliance Bernstein to increase pressure on Safeway to negotiate with the United Food and Commercial Workers union to end the labor dispute.

Alliance manages some of Calpers' $77 million investment in Safeway.

Feckner wrote to the supermarket chains in December urging them to resolve the closely watched labor dispute.

Feckner has told Reuters he is concerned the strike could lower the value of Safeway shares held by the pension system and that its real estate holdings, which include malls in which the three supermarkets have stores, also could be hurt.
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