Union Claims Management Group Wants A&P's Farmer Jack Chain

MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. -- The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 876 here said Friday it had learned that "an experienced management team" is looking to buy the entire Farmer Jack chain, if it can secure financing and are afforded the time needed to conduct an evaluation of the purchase.

"We believe this group has the potential to have a positive impact on the stores' operation and possesses the ability and experience needed to turn the company around," said Local 876 president Roger Robinson in a statement. "Unfortunately, given the current economic climate in Michigan, obtaining the financing is proving very difficult."

The union would prefer that the chain be kept largely intact in any deal, as that would most likely protect the greatest number of union jobs at the stores.

The Montvale, N.J.-based Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., meanwhile, has declined to comment on possible bidders for Farmer Jack until "an agreement can be announced," said spokesman Rick DeSanta. The grocer recently said that it would sell the Farmer Jack stores piecemeal.

The chain will shortly issue notices in compliance with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act to Michigan Farmer Jack workers, the union said.

"A&P is being careful to comply with the law," said Robinson. "A&P indicated they are issuing the notices to meet their legal obligations under WARN, nothing more. The notices are in no way any indication that any deal has been reached with a buyer or that any immediate store closings will take place."

WARN generally requires employers to give a minimum of 60 days' notice of workplace closings and/or mass layoffs.

"We are telling our members not to confuse WARN notification with any type of layoff notice," added Robinson. "Members will continue to work as long as their Farmer Jack store remains open, and members who lose their job as a result of a store closing or sale will continue to have bumping rights into other Farmer Jack stores. The union contract will remain in effect and strictly enforced as long as one Farmer Jack store remains open."

UFCW Local 876 represents about 5,100 Farmer Jack employees at 66 stores.
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