12/21/07

UFCW denies using false-front group for racketeering

Bashas filed suit today against the United Food and Commercial Workers union, saying that it has defamed the locally-owned grocery store chain in an attempt force unionization of its workers.

In a morning press conference, Bashas' president and chief executive officer Mike Proulx, said the suit was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court this morning because the union has spread "nasty, unethical and ugly" lies about the 75-year-old Arizona company.

It asks for a restraining order against the union and for unspecified damages.

Bashas' officials say the union has set up a "false-front" organization called Hungry for Respect, which has picketed Bashas' stores and spread rumors about the health and cleanliness of Bashas' stores and products.

UFCW Local 99, the local food and commercial workers union, had no immediate comment except to say that Hungry for Arizona is not a union front. Bob Grossfeld, a spokesman for Local 99, said Hungry for Respect is a research organization that has received funding from the union but has no direct relationship with it.

Bashas' attorney Michael Manning said the conflict between Bashas' and the UFCW has been ongoing since 2001, when the union tried and failed to unionize workers at Food City, which is part of the Bashas' chain.

"The UFCW's campaign is carefully crafted to inflict substantial economic damages, destroy Bashas' reputation and extort Bashas' into submitting to unionization," Manning said.

"The UFCW has giving Bashas' an ultimatum with two unacceptable choices - force Bashas' employees into their union or the UFCW will destroy Bashas' business."

Proulx said Bashas' officials also believe union representatives have planted outdated perishable products in its stores. He said the labels on the products showed that they were not items carried by Bashas' but by other Arizona groceries.

(azcentral.com)

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