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Shoppers Workers, Community Leaders Rally to Save Stores Facing Closure

Warn of the Loss of Good Jobs and Creation of Food Deserts

Hundreds of Shoppers Food & Pharmacy workers represented by UFCW Local 400, along with community leaders, other union activists and public officials, rallied in front of the chain’s Coral Hills, Md. store on June 26th to protest the potential closure of all stores in the area.

Speakers and participants called on the company to ensure these locations remain grocery stores with strong union jobs.

“I’ve worked at Shoppers for 11 years,” said Amber Stevens, a Local 400 member who works at Shoppers #2669 in Forestville, Md. “It’s my livelihood. It pays all of my bills. Not knowing if I’m going to be able to provide for my family makes me uneasy. When they decided to sell the stores, they should have informed their loyal employees. They should have informed us first. I hope that we can keep our stores and find union buyers — that would be a great outcome.”

“It’s been very stressful,” said Meeko Whitley, who works at Shoppers #2634 in Landover. “I have a family, two children and a grandchild, and it’s been very rough on a lot of people. I hope that I’m able to keep my job and stay employed. I hope UNFI reconsiders closing our stores.”

“We built this company,” Kevin Freeman, who works at Shoppers #2618. “For them to treat us like we’re nothing is wrong. We’re going to keep fighting, fighting and fighting some more. I hope UNFI sees and hears what’s going on and rethinks their decision.”

A host of public officials spoke out in support of the Shoppers workers.

“Prince George’s County has a problem already with food deserts, food swamps and not enough good paying jobs for our residents,” said County Councilwoman Jolene Ivey (D-5). “So this is a double-whammy. We need to protect people’s access to groceries and the right to good jobs. We need to make sure that we have quality grocery store here that’s a union shop. We need both.”

“I have a Shoppers in my district in Charles County,” said state Sen. Arthur Ellis (D-28). “It’s been there for years. I go there from time to time. I consider the people who work there my friends. I want them to keep their jobs, their health care and their retirement benefits. And we want people in our county to have access to fresh, good food, and we don’t want a food desert. Last year, Safeway in Charles County closed but we only found out after the fact. Here, we have an opportunity before an adverse action is taken to keep good jobs and fresh food in our communities.”

State Del. Dereck Davis (D-25) told the ralliers, “This is ridiculous. All we’re doing is asking them to let us know what’s going on. Well, we’re done asking. Now we’re demanding. We’re calling on the CEO to take care of their employees just like they take care of their shareholders.”

“You live here, you are our neighbors and constituents,” said state Del. Andrea Harrison (D-24). “We need to let UNFI know we mean business. Everyone should be able to take care of their families.”

“We are here to tell UNFI, it might be business to you, but it’s personal to us,” said Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy. “You are vital members of our community. I commit to you that I will do everything in my power to negotiate on your behalf.”

All Shoppers Food & Pharmacy stores in the DMV area are at risk of closing due to a decision made by corporate executives at Shoppers parent company, United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI).

In 2018, UNFI purchased the parent company of Shoppers, Supervalu, and immediately announced their intention to divest all of their retail operations, including Shoppers, as quickly as possible. Since that time, the people who work at Shoppers and the communities they serve have been left in limbo, not knowing what is going to happen to the good, union jobs and quality food options that have served their neighborhoods for decades.

“To be clear, Shoppers is not bankrupt or going out of business,” said Mark Federici, president of UFCW Local 400, which represents the unionized workers. “Their parent company is simply determined to sell these stores, regardless of whether or not they are profitable. The loss of these grocery stores and the union jobs they provide would be devastating for these communities.”

Participants noted that 12 of Shoppers’ 36 stores are located in Prince George’s County. Nine are inside the Beltway, where five Safeways have closed since 2010, making them all the more important. Two stores are in Forestville and one in Oxon Hill, considered by county officials to be food deserts. Other stores are in Bladensburg, Bowie, Clinton, College Park, Coral Hills, Hyattsville, Landover and New Carrollton — all communities with residents who periodically struggle to find and afford healthy meals for their families and need access to affordable, healthy food.

For more than 40 years, Shoppers has provided good union jobs with fair wages and health and retirement benefits, as well as affordable, fresh food in many communities that would otherwise be food deserts.

“Our members have been left in the dark for far too long,” explained Federici “After decades of faithfully serving the community, it is irresponsible to leave these hardworking men and women to wonder what the future will hold. We are calling on the company to ensure that these locations remain grocery stores with strong union jobs.”

Shoppers Plans to Close All 30 Pharmacies

A Shoppers store front in Herndon, Va.

A joint statement from UFCW Local 400 & UFCW Local 27

Today, UNFI, the parent company of Shoppers Food & Pharmacy, announced plans to close all 30 Shoppers pharmacies.

Here is what we know:

  • The pharmacies will close on a staggering basis beginning on April 23, 2019.
  • Pharmacy techs at these locations will be informed before their pharmacy closes and will be placed on the stores schedule in a clerk position with no effect to their rate of pay or status (full-time or part-time).
  • CVS purchased the pharmacy scripts and inventory from 24 stores and Walgreens has purchased the scripts and inventory from six stores.
  • The company continues to insist that there are “no immediate plans” to close any Shoppers stores.

This is a frustrating situation for everyone involved, and the lack of information has only made things worse. We are continuing to push UNFI to provide us with more information. We have made it clear that we expect UNFI to respect the terms of our collective bargaining agreement in the event that stores are sold.

In the meantime, we will continue to enforce your rights under your contract and we are committed to sharing any new information with you as we have it.

Sign Up for Text Alerts

We will use text message alerts to keep you updated as things move forward. If you have not already, please sign up for text alerts by texting SHOPPERS to 698-329.

* Your wireless provider’s message and data rates may apply – you may opt out any time by texting STOP to 698329.

Meeting with UNFI CEO Provides No New Information

A Shoppers store front in Herndon, Va.

A Joint Statement from UFCW Local 400 & UFCW Local 27

On Tuesday, April 2, 2019, we met with United Natural Foods (UNFI) CEO Steven Spinner with other UFCW leaders who represent workers at UNFI owned and operated retail employers. Unfortunately, Mr. Spinner provided no new information about UNFI’s plans for the Shoppers Food & Pharmacy stores beyond what has already been reported to you by us and in the news media.

We share your frustration with the lack of information from UNFI about their plans for your stores. It is the employees that have made Shoppers into a successful company and keep customers coming back. We expect UNFI to acknowledge the value of your hard work and commitment when the stores are sold to another operator.

We understand that this has been a difficult situation and the lack of concrete information from the company is not helping. We will continue to demand information from UNFI to ensure that they are complying with our collective bargaining agreements as they discuss a planned sale with potential buyers. In the meantime, we will continue to enforce your rights under your contract and we are committed to sharing any new information with you as we have it.

A Message from President Federici to All Shoppers Members

A Shoppers store front in Herndon, Va.

A message from Mark Federici, President, UFCW Local 400:

As we all know, for some time now the future of Shoppers Food & Pharmacy has been in question. For nearly two years, Shoppers’ parent companies (first Supervalu and now UNFI) have cryptically disclosed plans to completely leave the retail business to focus on wholesale distribution. The implication has always been clear – the company plans to sell off all remaining Shoppers locations.

Long before Shoppers was owned by Supervalu, and certainly long before United Natural Foods (UNFI) took any interest in our stores, our members were there day in and day out keeping this company successful.

Throughout this time, our members – the store associates who are the backbone of the Shoppers stores – have been left to wonder what the future will hold. Our repeated requests for information have been met with silence from the company.

Well enough is enough. Just because some far-off corporate office decides to leave the retail business doesn’t mean our members can be cast aside and forgotten.

Yesterday, I sent a letter to the CEO of UNFI demanding answers. The full text of the letter is below.

We are tired of this company communicating to investors and news reporters while leaving us in the dark. It’s long past time for us to have a seat at the table. You deserve to know how your future livelihoods will be affected. More importantly, you deserve respect. You have earned the opportunity to be heard. You have dedicated your careers to this company and we will not stand idly by and allow your employer to ignore you.

In the coming weeks, we expect UNFI to provide us with the information we have requested. If they do not, we will take appropriate action, including actions we will be asking you to participate in, both in your stores and in the communities you serve. UNFI and whichever company they choose to sell to need to respect you and respect your union contract. That means a seat at the table and the information we need and deserve as they look for buyers.

Please be on the lookout for updates and be ready to join your coworkers to take action if necessary.

Sign Up for Text Alerts

We will use text message alerts to keep you updated as things move forward. If you have not already, please sign up for text alerts by texting SHOPPERS to 698-329.

* Your wireless provider’s message and data rates may apply – you may opt out any time by texting STOP to 698329.

My letter to UNFI CEO Steven Spinner:

Dear Mr. Spinner:

Over the past days there have been multiple media reports that UNFI has sold Shoppers stores within Local 400’s jurisdiction. UNFI has nevertheless failed to provide Local 400 with any material information regarding these reported sales or the consequences the sales will have on Local 400 members.

Local 400 demands that you provide us with information about these reported store sales immediately. Local 400 will not hesitate to exercise its rights under our previous arbitral award and other laws if we are not promptly  provided  with information sufficient to advise our members. We have learned that the identities of the purchasers have been known to UNFI for some time now.

Our members have been the backbone of Shoppers stores for far longer than UNFI has had any interest in those stores and they deserve far more respect than UNFI has shown them in this process. They deserve to know what the future holds. On behalf of the hardworking people who continue to ensure that Shoppers remains a successful business, we expect an immediate response to this letter.

Sincerely,

Mark P. Federici

President and International Vice President

President Mark Federici's letter to UNFI CEO Steven Spinner, March 21, 2019.