Company Responds with Words, Not Action
Last week, hundreds of Local 400 members, Giant customers, brothers and sisters from other unions, community allies, elected officials and faith leaders marched from Local 400’s office to Giant headquarters to deliver thousands of petitions telling the company, “Save My Store!”
The boisterous rally was prompted by Giant’s announcement in March that it would sell eight stores in the region due to a corporate merger between Ahold and Delhaize, the European-based parent companies of Giant and Food Lion. Since that time, workers and customers at the stores slated to be sold have heard nothing about their fate and have received no assurances that their jobs and the protections of their union contract will be observed by store buyers.
“This is an example of corporate America run amuck,” said Local 400 President Mark P. Federici. “Why in the world is it right for the people who work and make profits for this company to be the last to know about their fate? That’s wrong.”
“We’ve had enough of our work, our sweat, our blood making it possible for these big deals to happen, but then we’re immediately forgotten about,” he charged. “We’re here to say, ‘go close somebody else!’”
“I was devastated when I heard about our store being sold,” said Robyn Wheeler, who has worked at the Fredericksburg, Va., Giant for 36 years, and is both the daughter and mother of longtime Giant employees. “We’re there every day doing our jobs. They’ve left us in the dark big time—no lights at all. We’re here to get answers and especially a good outcome.”
“We’re talking about our livelihoods,” said Jeannie Weaver, who works at Giant #338 in Accokeek, Md. “Giant management aren’t the ones who are affected. We’re the ones who have to stand firm and tell them, ‘No way! Don’t shut our doors. Don’t keep us in the dark.’”
“When I think of Giant, I think of community,” said Eric Masten, secretary-treasurer of UFCW Local 27. “Our store in Salisbury has been there since 1959 and it’s an integral part of the community. For a long time, it was the only Giant on the Delmarva Peninsula. It makes me sick to see what has happened to corporate finance.”
“We’ve submitted 1,200 ‘Save My Store’ petitions from Salisbury alone,” Masten said. “Our customers don’t want to lose their Giant. Our customers identify with our workers. It would be a sad day if the company shuts down a store with good wages and benefits while leaving open stores where people make low wages and benefits.”
Joe Wood, a Local 27 member who has worked at Giant #351 in Salisbury for 30 years said, “This goes beyond everybody in this room. I’m a receiver and this affects every vendor. If Giant closes us down, it closes a million dollar store. It affects Salisbury. It affects the taxes our city collects. For each of us, this affects another 15 to 20 people.”
“If our store gets sold to a non-union business, we go from middle class wages to Section 8 housing wages,” Wood said. “We’ll be spending less in our community. When you stop cutting meat in the store, what happens? Management thinks they save money. But what about the shoppers they lose?”
Deborah Snyder of Stafford, Va., attended the march and rally, noting, “I’ve shopped at my Giant for close to 40 years. When I heard this was happening, I knew I had to support the workers.”
After rallying in front of Giant headquarters, a group of marchers delivered four shopping carts full of signed petitions to company representatives. Afterwards, they told the crowd that while Giant offered to meet with individual workers and claimed its “priority” was to sell the stores to unionized companies that pay good wages and benefits, managers made no commitments.
“I was not satisfied with Giant’s answer,” Federici said. “No disrespect to the offer, but we want facts. We want them to put this in writing. We want them to respond to the official request by Local 400 and Local 27, and they still have not done so. Rhetoric does not put bread and butter on the table.”