FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Wendy Weiner
February 8, 2011 (860) 593-4088
Richmond Workers, Residents, Clergy
Urge Martin’s to Treat Employees, Community Better
One-Year Anniversary of Ukrop’s Sale Marked by Candlelight Vigil,
Worker and Community Testimonies on Impact of Changes
RICHMOND — Calling on Martin’s to start acting as a good employer, a good neighbor and a responsible corporate citizen, a group of Richmond workers, community activists, faith leaders and other residents held a candlelight vigil to mark the one-year anniversary of Dutch grocer Royal Ahold’s buyout of the locally-owned Ukrop’s.
Offering testimony on the impact of changes since the sale, vigil participants urged Martin’s to adopt the pro-worker, pro-community policies of Ukrop’s. Community members also urged Martin’s to model its conduct on the nearby Giant-Landover supermarket banner; the two banners are both operated by the Netherlands-based Royal Ahold NV. They also released a report called “A Year Without Ukrop’s,” documenting how Martin’s has “failed to sustain the policies, practices, and culture that had made its predecessor such a positive force in the area.”
“I was proud to work at Ukrop’s — we were always so active in the community,” said Shaquana Battle, who made the transition to working at Martin’s. “I miss the Ukrop’s ‘Golden Rule’ — to treat customers, associates and suppliers as they want to be treated. Now, management dictates everything with little regard for workers and customers. When I was at Ukrop’s, I felt more involved and appreciated. Not just because the owners shared the profits with us — a practice Martin’s immediately stopped — but also because you felt loved. Everybody was like family. Now it’s just a job. You don’t get the feeling anyone really cares about you as a worker or what you think. Hours are changed and cut arbitrarily with no notice. There’s no sense of dignity.”
Myra Washington, a member of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400 who works at Kroger in Richmond, provided a contrast with Battle’s experience. “I know when I go to work that I will be respected and have a voice,” she said. “I know when I’m getting my next raise, I know how many hours I will be working next week. I can plan my family’s future, both for this week and for years to come. Martin’s workers deserve the same security I receive because I have a union representing me. It’s no coincidence that Kroger also treats the community with respect, welcoming groups like the Girl Scouts and the Salvation Army. Why Martin’s refuses to be the good employer and good neighbor that Kroger is and Ukrop’s was is beyond me.”
“It’s deeply disappointing to me that when Ukrop’s was sold to Martin’s, the chain’s policy of contributing at least ten percent of its profits to charity went out the window,” said Rev. Dr. Lester Frye, pastor of the Healing & Living Waters Ministry in Richmond. “We’ve gone from a business that was deeply invested in our community to one that only seems interested in exploiting its workers and customers alike. When we spend our hard-earned dollars on groceries, we should ensure that a large portion of that money gets recirculated within our local economy, not sucked out of our city, state and country. Our quality of life demands that we do our shopping elsewhere.”
Speakers also noted the differences between Martin’s and other Ahold banner Giant-Landover, which is fully unionized and whose stores extend as far south as Fredericksburg. “In Northern Virginia, much of the U.S. and all of Europe, the employees of Ahold’s various operations have a strong voice in the workplace, living wages, health and retirement security, and fair and respectful treatment,” said Kayla Mock, a UFCW Local 400 member who works at the Manassas, Va., Giant. “Why should Ahold’s Richmond workers be denied these rights and treated as second-class employees? What does that say about how Ahold views people in this city? All Martin’s workers deserve the same choice about whether to empower themselves with collective bargaining that most other Ahold workers have. We call on Martin’s to let their workers freely and fairly decide what’s best for them and their families.”
Vigil participants pledged to support Martin’s workers as they seek to determine their own futures and to increase pressure on Ahold to adopt the same policies and practices at Martin’s that has adopted at Giant-Landover and other Ahold banners.
UFCW Local 400 represents 38,000 members working in the retail food, health care, retail, food processing, service and other industries in Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, West Virginia and nearby states.