Shop ‘n Save for sale: Now is the time your union matters most
By now many of you have probably heard that SuperValu is looking to sell their Shop ‘n Save locations in Missouri and Illinois. This
news creates immediate uncertainty in the minds of thousands of UFCW partners currently working at those stores.
I know this because I was once in the same position as these partners. I got my start with Local 655 bagging groceries at age 16. In 1986, I was a produce manager at Kroger. My union wages and benefits were supporting my family. Both my parents were working at Kroger at the time, along with my brother.
Our entire family was suddenly staring down an unpredictable and troubling situation. Would our jobs still exist? Would we still be working? How would our wages, our benefits, be impacted?
These questions cause sleepless nights and challenging conversations, but because I went through this myself, I know how important it will be that our union family sticks together in this time.
THE UNION DIFFERENCE
First, let me be clear that our Shop ’n Save partners already have a leg-up in this difficult situation. Unlike employees of ToysRUs — who were cast into an ocean of uncertainty when their company announced it was closing all of its doors — union partners have a seat at the table.
Shop ’n Save union partners will not be subject to the unchecked will of their company. Their union family will have their back.
Let’s remember: Any prospective buyer isn’t coming to purchase the brand “Shop ’n Save.” They aren’t just buying buildings and a name. They are buying a workforce. They are buying access to a group of hard-working, well- trained, quality union workers that provides excellent service to their customers.
Our job as a union is to make sure any potential buyer understands the value of this workforce. Our union brothers and sisters in these stores know their community, know the work, and know how to provide the service needed to be successful.
SuperValu’s decision to sell Shop ’n Save isn’t reflective of the work their employees did. It is, however, a reflection of their poor business decisions and their inability to adjust to the unique grocery market in St. Louis.
THE ST. LOUIS DIFFERENCE
St. Louis has a unique market for retail grocery stores. While there are certainly national chains operating here, the market is currently dominated by three major locally-owned and operated companies. Schnucks, Dierbergs and Straubs are St. Louis-based companies. They also happen to be good union employers with local customers loyal to their brand.
If one of these local companies chooses to engage SuperValu in this sale, we will be well positioned to ensure the protection of Shop ’n Save employees’ jobs. If a national chain looks at this opportunity to get a foothold in the St. Louis market, we will use UFCW’s considerable relationships with many national chains to make sure that the company knows the value of the union workforce.
Any national company that may step in during this process will need to have a good understanding of our unique market. They’ll need a workforce known to local customers, and they’ll need the public to know that they support jobs with good wages and benefits. A national company could achieve all of these goals if they appropriately embrace current Shop ’n Save employees as their own and work with Local 655 on a good union contract.
THE FAMILY DIFFERENCE
We use phrases like “union family” and “brothers and sis- ters” so often that perhaps some- times we forget the true weight that they carry. If you’re a Shop ’n Save employee, know that you are our family, and we will fight for you during this process exactly as we’d fight for our own flesh and blood.
If you’re a member of Local 655 employed somewhere else, show your union solidarity as this process unfolds. Remember that these men and women at Shop ’n Save are your brothers and sisters. Stand with them as you’d stand with your family.
Across this country we’ve seen workers subjected to buyouts, layoffs and businesses closing doors. Too often these workers do not have a union family to make sure they have a say in their future, and too often these workers are abandoned by companies who don’t care about their fate.
Our brothers and sisters working at Shop ’n Save are our family. We will not abandon them.
The hardest part of this process will be the next few weeks, or even months, as we wait to see what companies emerge as interested parties in a purchase. As the president of Local 655, I will keep close tabs on these developments to make sure we are positioned to respond quickly and efficiently to any sale.
We will be in contact with our International UFCW family to monitor this process and position ourselves effectively to deal with any new company involved in this sale that might have UFCW contracts in other cities or states.
We will be in contact with SuperValu to make certain that our union brothers and sisters in their stores are treated as the valuable and necessary part of the business that they are.
It’s important for Shop ’n Save employees to understand that they do have a safety net. Their contract guarantees that they can’t be pushed out into the cold if their employer chooses to simply close their doors tomorrow.
SuperValu is unlikely to close stores as a sale develops. This is a company that wants to make sure these stores are viable and profitable.
-UFCW Local 655 President, David A. Cook