Teamsters lobby for consumer boycott of food chain
Demonstration at company headquarters | Teamsters Joint Council 42

LOS ANGELES —Los Angeles-based Teamsters Local 630 is lobbying for consumers to boycott the Smart & Final food chain, after its Mexican-based owner, a $13 billion company, decided to close two warehouses in Southern California, open a third in Rancho Cucamonga, and make all 600 workers involved re-apply for their jobs.

The close-move-and-reapply threat forced the workers, who just voted for Local 630 to represent them, to  strike for three weeks last November over company unfair labor practices, Local Secretary-Treasurer Lou Villalvazo said. Seeking and getting community support, including support for the boycott, is a follow-up step.

And on January 12, they staged a mass rally at the firm’s L.A. corporate offices to highlight the lawbreaking refusal to bargain a first contract, or over the move or anything else.

Teamsters Joint Council 42

Teamsters Warehouse Division Director Tom Erickson added then: “Chedraui must honor their sacrifices by ensuring their jobs are protected and union rights are upheld. Just because you move workers to a new warehouse doesn’t mean you can rewrite the rules.

“We continue to boycott and expose Smart & Final/Chedraui as the greedy corporate bully it is!” Villalvazo wrote in the Southern California Teamster. “On December 19 we conducted another leafleting action, with the help of our sister locals in Joint Council 42, along with our stewards and the dedicated Teamsters@S&F.”

The leafletting drew public support. The local believes the boycott will, too. It even posted a QR code in the paper and on its website for its readers to join in. The council has 160,000 members in dozens of unions over several West Coast states, and Villalvazo wants them to rise up in solidarity.

“The boycott will be ongoing until we achieve justice and a fair contract that protects these workers’ right to their work. As Teamsters we must be militant and ready to engage this company at a moment’s notice!

“If you think this does not affect you because you’re in a different industry, you’re wrong. We are all connected by the food chain.”

The union explained Grupo Commercial Chedraui, a $13 billion Mexican company that owns the grocery chain, plans to fire all the workers at the two existing warehouses, in Commerce and Riverside, Calif., “and force workers to reapply for their jobs at a new distribution warehouse for lower wages and weaker benefits.”

It’s also threatened workers, withheld and delayed benefits “and taken other actions that interfere and retaliate against employees for exercising their rights to form and join a union, Villalvazo said. And it still won’t guarantee the present workers their jobs “and their union representation” even when the move to Rancho Cucamonga occurs, he added.

“That’s why we need your help to boycott Smart & Final,” Villalvazo urged consumers. “Do not give your hard-earned money to a company that refuses to treat workers with dignity and respect. Stand in solidarity with the Teamsters” through the boycott, the QR code and signing a protest petition to Chedraui CEO Carlos Smith “to respect these workers that built” the company.

“For too long this company has jerked us around with its bad faith negotiations,” Villalvazo said at the January rally. “We are out here today to protect American jobs. We are calling for a fair first contract that will provide our members with the wages and respect they deserve. Chedraui needs to wise up to the fact that these workers will not back down until the company listens to their demands.”

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

The Southern California Teamster
The Southern California Teamster

Paul Mihalow is the editor of the Southern California Teamster.