6/26/08

Organizer-in-Chief burnishes foreign-policy cred

Related UFCW-Tesco stories: here and here

Barack acts as bargaining agent for RICO-challenged UFCW

Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, has urged the Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy to engage with the largest food workers' union in the US over the employment rights of workers at its Fresh & Easy convenience stores.

In a letter released yesterday, Mr Obama urged Sir Terry to "reconsider your policy of non-engagement in the US" and again called on Fresh & Easy executives to meet the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) and other community groups "at the earliest opportunity". To date, Tesco has not responded to the request for dialogue from the union.

The letter is the second missive that Mr Obama has sent to Tesco's top brass, following a previous communication with the Fresh & Easy chief executive Tim Mason in November. The UFCW, which came to London to launch its Two Faces of Tesco campaign this month, is to attend the group's AGM tomorrow.

In particular, the UFCW wants Tesco to offer its Fresh & Easy workers the same employment rights as staff who are union members in the UK.

In the letter, Mr Obama said: "Ensuring that workers are able to exercise their right to organise and work in safe, rewarding environments were an important element of my campaign for the Democratic nomination, as they will be in my campaign for the presidency."

The UFCW president Joseph Hansen said: "If Tesco's business conduct in America is on the radar of the man who could be America's next president, it really is time for investors to start asking Tesco's chief executive some hard questions about the company's business judgements."

Tesco launched its Fresh & Easy chain in the US in November and now has more than 60 stores in America.

James McLaughlin, president of UFCW Local 99 in Arizona, said Tesco had met its requests for dialogue with radio silence. "There has been nothing," he said. "We have sent letters and reached out to them many times, but they have decided to ignore us. We will be talking to shareholders to raise our concerns about the company's foray into the US."

He declined to say whether the UFCW would actually be inside the AGM building or whether they may protest outside.

The union alleges Fresh & Easy workers do not get a contract, though Tesco insists that while this is standard practice in the UK, it is not in the US. Mr McLaughlin said: "The most important thing is getting workers that first contract and getting them those bargaining rights."

A Tesco spokesman said: "We strongly believe that union membership is a matter of individual choice and if our people want to join a union then they can and will. All the signs so far are that there is little interest in doing so. We have made it a priority to engage with community groups to explain our strong package of pay and benefits which has attracted staff from both union and non-union companies."

Yesterday, Fresh & Easy said it plans to hire 750 additional staff in the next three months as a part of its continued expansion.

Tesco's AGM should also be colourful as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the chef and food campaigner, plans to put a resolution on chicken welfare to shareholders.

(independent.co.uk)

1 comment:

able said...

In a letter released yesterday, Mr Obadias urged Sir Terry to "reconsider your policy of non-engagement in the US" and again called on Fresh & Easy executives to meet the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFA) and other community groups "at the earliest opportunity". To date, Telescope has not responded to the request for dialogue from the union.

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