Local Union Rallies against Tesco

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Local Union Rallies against Tesco

PHOENIX -- A local branch of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union is attempting to stall Tesco's development of its Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets in the area by targeting the chain's plan to sell liquor, reported The Arizona Republic.

Union spokesman Mike Vespoli told the paper the union is responsible for last weekend's mailing and distribution of anonymous fliers that asks residents to protest the company's applications for liquor licenses at many of the 20 Fresh & Easy stores planned to open in the area.

The one page flier states that the company's British stores have been caught selling alcohol to underage customers, making it an undesirable retailer for the area. It encourages residents to write to the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control. However, no organization or affiliation is mentioned on the flier, the report stated.

Vespoli told the paper the union's name was purposely left off the flier. "We don't want to make this a union issue," he said. "This is a neighborhood issue."

Local residents were confused by the message.

"Somebody's trying to influence my opinion without even telling me why they have a dog in the fight," said Curt Wooley, a Mesa, Ariz., resident who lives close to a future store. He considered writing to the liquor license department in support of the company.

The fliers are an example of roadblocks the chain will have to face if it tries to be union-free, and are meant to persuade Tesco to enter union negotiations or have its development slowed, according to Vespoli.

If the company will "cooperate and recognize the rights of workers to organize, then we'll be friends," Vespoli told the paper. "If not, we're going to be there to challenge every step of the way."

The Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control received approximately 150 emails representing both sides of the issue in response to the flier, according to Sergeant Wes Kuhl, a department spokesman.

The emails could put a stick in Tesco's spokes if it generates a protest. Although the company applied for 20 liquor licenses for its stores in the area, none have been approved. If protested, the applications will face a hearing in front of the Arizona liquor board, which will have final approval of the applications, the report stated.

Tesco's chief marketing officer, Simon Uwins, told the paper the flier misrepresents the company. "We're a bit disappointed."

Last fall, three Tesco stores in England were caught selling alcohol to minors in a nationwide undercover sting that also investigated other retailers, the report stated. In January, one of the stores was suspended from selling alcohol for 28 days.

In other Tesco news, the company is expected to set up a Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market location in Hollywood, Calif., in a building that overlooks numerous famous names on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, reported the Financial Times. The location is also one block from the Kodak Theater, the site of the yearly Oscar award show.

The tourist-filled location will make it the focal point of its U.S. venture, the report stated. To date, the company has identified more than 50 store locations in the Western U.S., mainly in suburbs of Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The store will be located on the ground floor of the Galaxy building, a former multiplex cinema and shopping center. Other tenants include LA Fitness, a discount shoe store and the Knitting Factory jazz club.

While it may have plenty of traffic from tourists, getting the locals inside may be difficult, according to Josh Williams, editor at the Curbed LA real estate blog. He told the Times that the location is far from the upmarket residences that are breathing life into the area.

"I'm not sure how they're going to get the locals to actually fight the tourist crowds and traffic to get to the store," he said.