Union leaders have filed charges against Haggen, Albertsons and Vons alleging illegal layoffs and hour reductions for workers, failing to fully inform workers about job protections, and failing to adhere to legally binding negotiated protections.
The charges were filed on the heels of Haggen's recent decision to close 22 stores and layoff or fire as many as 1,100 employees, as PG previously reported.
“We will not stand idly by as management tries to pull the wool over their employees’ eyes,” said Rick Icaza, president of the Los Angeles-based United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770. “These companies have misled and mistreated their employees either through gross self-interest or gross incompetence, either of which is unacceptable. Real people are suffering loss of wages, health care, seniority, and outright loss of their jobs" continued Icaza, who vowed that Local 770 "will do everything in our power to hold management accountable and return our members to their jobs with full benefits intact.”
The grievances cite Haggen, Albertson’s and Vons "illegitimate dismissal of senior workers, disabled workers, and prior plans to close a large number of stores shortly after Haggen’s acquisition of nearly 150 Albertson’s locations."
Following Haggen's acquisition of nearly 150 stores divested by Albertsons earlier this year at the order of the Federal Trade Commission, prior contractual guarantees gave employees the choice to stay at their current Haggen-owned store or transfer to another Albertsons or Vons store, according to the union's statement, which said further that workers were led to believe they would retain their jobs, seniority, and contract protections if they chose to work with Haggen.
"Now, the union believes Haggen planned all along to shut and sell those stores, thus deceiving their employees and depriving them of their livelihood," according to Local 770.
The official grievance states:
"The company violated the collective bargaining agreement and deprived bargaining unit members of their rights under the contract in the way it handled and implemented the sale of Albertsons and Vons stores to Haggen.
"These violations caused each affected employee to lose all their contractual rights, including but not limited to, seniority, wages and benefits they enjoyed at Albertsons."
At press time, neither Haggen or Albertsons/Safeway responded to Progressive Grocer's request for comment.
Calif. Gov. Signs Bill Protecting Jobs During Ownership Change
In related news, California Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed a bill which aims to protect grocery workers from being fired due to changes in store ownership.
The bill (AB 359), which was strongly backed by labor groups including UFCW, mandates that grocery store employees working in stores of at least 15,000 square feet cannot be fired during a 90-day transition period if the grocery store is undergoing a change of ownership. After the transition period, the new employer must provide a written performance evaluation and consider an offer of continued employment following a satisfactory evaluation.
However, employers would retain the right to terminate an employee for cause at any time during and following the transition period.
The bill is the first statewide law in the country requiring grocery stores to keep employees while they undergo a change in ownership.