Haggen: Charges and Grievances have been filed with the NLRB
By Mickey Kasparian
International Vice President
The UFCW Locals 135, 324, 770, 1167, 1428, 1442, and 8 Golden State have filed charges and mass grievances with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Haggen for illegally laying off and reducing workers from full-time to part-time.
We believe the grocers failed to fully inform workers about job protections, and failed to adhere to legally binding protections negotiated by their union. In addition we believe Haggen planned all along to close and sell those stores, thus deceiving their employees and depriving them of their livelihood.
Let’s face it, Fortune 500 companies like Comvest Partners, with a majority stake in Haggen, doesn’t care about its workers and I’m not sure Haggen does either. All that matters to Comvest is profits and its shareholders, and I’m sure the CEO and other executives are making a pretty penny.
The corporate philosophy that says “profits over everything else” is in full play here. With the board of directors pressuring management to make more money for themselves and their shareholders, they are not interested in investing in their work force.
Because of this philosophy, thousands of people are left bleeding in the streets. Literally thousands of workers in California are losing their jobs, many of whom have worked in the grocery business for a decade or more.
When Haggen bought the 80-plus stores divested by the Federal Trade Commission from the Albertson’s purchase of Safeway, we thought our members had won the lotto. They accepted our current contract without any changes or negotiations, they even asked employees to stay. We urged members to stay too.
So, how does a company go from rebranding those old Vons and Albertsons and opening the first Haggen in March and the last in June to closing stores, laying off workers and cutting hours in August? Incompetence? Perhaps. But we think there was collusion between Albertsons, Vons and Haggen so the Haggen stores could be sold off to non-union stores at a huge profit. We know that Haggen isn’t returning phone calls to Union stores interested in purchasing some of their failed stores.
Haggen came in with a good strategy – offering conventional groceries alongside upscale specialty items and a large organic section. But it failed to retain old customers or bring in new ones. And it had to stand up to fierce competition.
Haggen seems to have an aversion to advertising, which is imperative for the highly competitive Southern California market. Let’s add to that that they came in with really high prices – $5 for a can of corn or close to $10 for a half-gallon of orange juice. So the former Vons and Albertsons shoppers gave them a try and then moved on to other grocery stores.
It’s too bad for Haggen and the workers that they followed the corporate protocol of laying off workers and cutting hours for others, most of whom have decades in the business. Our members are professionals and they could teach Haggen management a thing or two about the grocery business.
In the meantime, Haggen has filed Chapter 11 Bankruptcy to reorganize the company and will remain in business, or so we think.
We want to help. We want our members to use their personal connections in the community to bring in new customers to Haggen. We want Haggen management to listen to our experienced members and the local Unions.
We wish Haggen well and much success in the future – for the sake of our members, their workers.
We have all seen companies turn things around. Haggen can do it too. They can start by advertising, offering coupons and lowering prices. Until then, we will continue to advocate for our members. Hopefully Haggen management will learn that its greatest asset is its employees.