Unionized NoCal Associates Fight Rollout of Walmart Neighborhood Markets
Unionized grocery workers in Northern California have expressed their opposition to the planned opening of Walmart Neighborhood Markets in the region. According to San Jose, Calif.-based United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union, Local 5, the 30,000- 40,000-square-foot non-union stores would compete directly with unionized companies such as Safeway and Lucky Supermarkets.
Calling the move on Walmart’s part “a direct threat to our members in the grocery industry,” UFCW Local 5 President Ron Lind added: “Walmart has built out their stores in rural and suburban areas, and has met much resistance to their expansion in more urban areas. That is the reason for this change” in strategy regarding Northern California.
Walmart has proposed building their first Neighborhood Market in the area in Pleasanton, Calif., site of Safeway’s corporate headquarters, which union members considered ironic. “Thousands of good jobs and the livelihood of tens of thousands of our members are jeopardized by Walmart’s plans,” noted Lind. “We intend on fighting this threat with every ounce of our strength.”
“The union will use public education, political action and direct outreach by our members to the community to maintain the service, selection, and excellent wages and benefits the industry currently provides,” Mike Henneberry, director of communications for UFCW Local 5, told Progressive Grocer. “We are confident that once California’s citizens and policymakers are made aware of the negative impact Walmart grocery stores will have on grocery workers, their neighbors, they will not welcome Walmart. In fact, we believe they will reject the high cost of low prices.”
The UFCW’s efforts began in Pleasanton, added Henneberry.
Walmart currently operates 167 Neighborhood Markets across the United States, although none currently in the state of California. The average store size is 42,000 square feet and the average number of employees is 95. The banner first rolled out in 1998. Although the Bentonville, Ark.-based company has revealed its intention to open Neighborhood Markets in Pleasanton, Hayward and San Ramon, Calif., and is considering sites in Granite Bay and Lincoln, a Walmart spokeswoman told PG that the company would decide how locations open, when and where on "a case-by-case basis.".