UFCW bullying tactics shameful

The tactics of the United Food and Commercial Workers against Bashas' food stores must have Jimmy Hoffa turning in his grave ... no small feat, considering Hoffa's grave may have several tons of concrete over it. But the national food-handlers union is in a difficult position. Let's try to sympathize, if that's possible. It may not be.

The 14,000 employees of the Bashas' Arizona supermarket chain appear to have rejected the UFCW. The union has logged an aggressive campaign to urge employees of the food-store chain to sign cards indicating an interest in unionizing, and the effort looks to have flagged badly.

The Bashas' management long has contended that its employees are uniquely loyal. Their rejection of the UFCW would seem to bear out a mutual sense of goodwill. So, goodbye, UFCW? Not quite. With private-sector union membership in the United States dwindling rapidly, the UFCW has decided that "no" just isn't good enough. Now, the union is giving intimidation a try.

Oh, it's intimidation dressed up as consumer watchdogism. But the union's intended effect, to force Bashas' managers either to negotiate a contract or lose customers, constitutes a cartoonish paean to old-school union bully tactics.

Over the past weeks, the UFCW, in association with a local activist group funded by the union, has held two news conferences in which they claim to have discovered containers of baby formula on Bashas' shelves that are out of code.

At the news events, UFCW local President James McLaughlin said his union is just concerned about the health and safety of little babies. Eddie Basha Jr., chief executive of the food-store chain bearing his family name, views the union claims differently, decrying them as "vicious lies and despicable slander." The union claims to have found 683 containers of out-of-date baby food at dozens of stores owned by the Bashas' chain.

McLaughlin and his team produced sales receipts showing recent purchases of baby food. But, as Bashas' President Mike Proulx notes, sales receipts do not include enough data to tie them to the out-of-date food.

State inspectors for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, meanwhile, regularly monitor food stores for code compliance. In two years of random inspections, the inspectors have uncovered no violations at Bashas' stores, according to Karen Sell, head of the WIC program.

This Arizona baby-formula "scandal" is almost a mirror image of a 1995 event in Virginia, also staged by the UFCW. Then, the union claimed to have found rampant evidence of out-of-date baby formula at Food Lion supermarkets, while government inspectors had found almost none. And, not coincidentally, the union accusations about Food Lion's abuse of the public trust immediately followed its failed efforts to unionize Food Lion employees.

The UFCW openly admits that it dislikes the primary means of union-organizing in the U.S. today: secret balloting supervised by the National Labor Relations Board. Its tactics against Bashas' demonstrate what it does prefer: direct union-to-management contract negotiations forced by Bashas' capitulation to union bullying.

Does anyone really doubt that all those heartfelt union concerns about the welfare of the children would evaporate the moment Bashas' managers rolled over for them?

Unfortunately - for them - no one at Bashas' headquarters is of a mood to roll for such shameful tactics.

Only Jimmy H. is rolling. Somewhere. And, likely, out of embarrassment.


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