Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Mike Acuna as Mike Shimpock.
A handful of Northeast Los Angeles area employees backed by union allies blasted Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market for busting their effort to become unionized.
The rally in Glassell Park comes months after a majority of employees signed a petition to become a union shop under the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) labor union, according to protesters at Monday’
Carlos Juarez and Mike Acuna, both Fresh & Easy employees and Highland Park residents, said 21 of 28 employees at the local store signed a petition supporting unionization. Instead of being recognized as a union shop, however, they claim the company has retaliated by mistreating them, cutting their hours, and subjecting them to unwarranted surveillance with security cameras.
“That commitment to unionization was something that they went to the manager with in what should have been a clear, and ‘fresh and easy’ process, but instead was rejected by the management with the decision to relocate people, to add people to their lists, to find reasons to terminate people so they no longer had a majority. That’s just wrong. That is an injustice. That is against everything we stand for,”
said Rabbi Jonathan Klein, executive director of Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) Los Angeles.
Fresh & Easy is saying UFCW union members, not Fresh & Easy employees at the site, are demanding the grocery store be unionized; that’
s a lie, said Juarez, a father of two. Juarez has worked at the Fresh & Easy on Eagle Rock Boulevard in Glassell Park since 2008 and wants to be represented by a union.
The international grocery chain’s starting pay is $10 an hour in California, but after working for three years at the store, Juarez and Acuna said they’
ve only received a 90-cent raise and are probably the highest paid workers at the store.
The two men say they have had loss of time injuries, as have over a dozen other employees.
John Getz, UFCW organizer, told EGP that Tesco, Fresh & Easy’
s parent company, is comparable to Walmart in prolonging unjust labor practices in order to maximize corporate profit.
Two years ago a report titled “The Two Faces of Tesco” was released at Los Angeles City Hall. The report showed that Fresh & Easy’s parent company [Tesco] had collective bargaining for employees in England but not in the US and South Korea. Council members asked Tesco to change its “anti-worker practices”
but it has not, said Jose Sigala, legislative deputy for Councilmember Richard Alarcon (CD-7).
“Tesco exemplifies the word ‘imperialism’ in its treatment of American workers by denying them the right to organize. Tesco calls its stores Fresh & Easy—a better name for the stores is Fresh & Sleazy,” Alarcon said in a written statement read by Sigala. “Let us talk with our neighbors about the reason why the stores should be called Fresh & Sleazy.”
Speakers noted the rally took place on the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King who besides being a civil rights leader was also a labor union proponent.
Also present in a show of support were representatives for Assemblymember Anthony Portantino (District 44) and Los Angeles City Council members Jose Huizar (CD-14) and Eric Garcetti (CD-13).
According to their website, Fresh & Easy offers competitive base salary, all employees are eligible for a quarterly bonus and are eligible for a comprehensive benefits package and 401(K).
“We know that to be successful, we need a very motivated workforce. We’ve created a positive, team-based culture, where everyone is treated with respect,” said Fresh & Easy spokesperson Brendan Wonnacott in a written statement. “The choice to participate in a union is a decision that only our employees can make – it is their democratic right.”
Fresh & Easy employees at Glassell Park who requested to join a union were advised to follow the National Labor Relations Act and call for a secret ballot election. “Thus far, our employees have not chosen to join a union or to pursue a secret ballot election,”