June 4, 2008
One of America’s biggest unions, the 1.3 million-strong United Food and Commercial Workers union, today launched a UK campaign to expose “The Two Faces of Tesco.””
At a Westminster press launch chaired by Jon Cruddas MP, the union said that it is stepping up a campaign already begun in the United States to shame Tesco to talks on union recognition and employee pay and benefits.
The UFCW seeks to represent some of the lowest-paid and least secure retail workers in the USA, more than half of whom are women, and has been seeking talks with Tesco for two years since the world’s third-largest retailer announced its entry into the US grocery market. All attempts have so far fallen on deaf ears, and Tesco launched its chain of Fresh & Easy supermarkets in 2007 as non-union stores.
UFCW says that it is seeking the chance for dialogue, to build the same constructive partnership that Tesco enjoys in the UK with the shop workers’ union Usdaw, but Tesco refuses to meet.
So UFCW has brought the campaign to Britain. It believes that its new report – The Two Faces of Tesco – is a damning indictment of how Tesco operates different principles at home and abroad. The report also highlights what UFCW believes are stark contrasts between what Tesco says and what it does.
Speaking at the launch Jon Cruddas MP said:
“British companies which operate in the global marketplace should apply the highest standards in dealing with their workforce, both at home and abroad. What this dossier exposes about Tesco’s practices in the United States, in my view not only undermines Tesco’s reputation, but will also affect how people think about the fairness of British companies in general. I urge Tesco to put its stated principles and policies into practice and to start talking to these important stakeholders.”
The launch was also attended by UFCW member Jackie Gitmed, a cashier from a rival, unionised supermarket, and by UFCW’s campaigns director, Emily Stewart, who said:
“We were genuinely excited at the prospect of building a partnership with Tesco, so we are doubly appalled at the way it is behaving towards us and the many community groups which have tried and failed to meet with it.
“Tesco has a great reputation for employment rights and corporate responsibility in the UK, but this is a reputation which, in our view, is sullied by its behaviour in the USA.
“Our dossier exposes Tesco’s two faces, and we intend to campaign in Britain to show Tesco’s other face to British people, British investors and British politicians, in the hope that they will influence Tesco to stop and think again about how they conduct their business in America. We are asking for nothing more than Tesco already does here.”
Jackie Gitmed, a cashier from Ralphs Supermarket in Encino, California, with 32 years’ experience in unionised stores, added:
“We’re never going to be rich working for a grocery store, but we all deserve a shot at earning a living wage and health insurance we can afford, as well as the peace of mind to know that we won’t be let go at a moment’s notice.
“In my 32 years working with the protection of a union agreement, I have enjoyed job security and union-negotiated healthcare and pensions benefits. Our colleagues at Tesco’s Fresh & Easy stores don’t have this. I have flown from LA to London because this campaign is important. I hope it will make Tesco pay attention, so that my fellow workers in Tesco’s US stores can enjoy the benefits and opportunities they deserve.”