Supervalu is moving toward selling its two largest chains to Cerberus Capital Management after a deal for the entire company has stalled, Bloomberg News is reporting.
Eden Prairie-based Supervalu, which owns Cub Foods, is considering selling its Albertsons and Save-A-Lot chains to Cerberus, Bloomberg said, citing unnamed sources.
Supervalu declined to comment, except to say that it "continues in active (sales) discussion with several parties."
Supervalu was at $2.76 in the late-morning trading, up 21 cents or 8.2 percent.
For Supervalu, Albertsons' is big in the western part of the United States. Supervalu and Cerberus teamed up in 2006 in the $17.4 billion purchase of Albertsons, a multi-chain company that included the flagship Albertson's brand.
For $12.4 billion, Supervalu got 1,124 traditional grocery stores under several banners across the U.S., including 569 Albertsons. Cerberus got 655 of Albertsons underperforming stores, of which it subsequently sold off more than 400.
St. Louis-based Save-A-Lot is a hard-discount supermarket specializing in private labels and akin to Aldi, another low-price chain. It has 1,200 outlets nationwide, though only two in Minnesota. Save-A-Lot is considered one of Supervalu's most valuable assets.
Bloomberg reported that buyout group KKR & Co. and others have also expressed interest in Save-A-Lot.
Supervalu put itself up for sale as a whole or in parts in July after several quarters of falling sales and market share, along with a rapidly declining stock. Stock analysts have expected that the grocery giant, which has 11 chains, would be sold in pieces.
But in October, speculation began to center on a bid for the whole company by Cerberus, a large private equity group. It now appears that financing for a whole sale of Supervalu to Cerberus is on the rocks, according to reports citing unnamed sources.
Friday was a historic day for labor organizing, as workers and their supporters at 1,000 Walmarts across the country protested on the superstore’s most profitable day. Unsurprisingly, Walmart told a different story, claiming that the Black Friday actions had little impact. But the hundreds of employees who walked out—despite threats of arrest and retaliation—showed that workers are willing to stand up to the nation’s largest employer. Nation contributor Josh Eidelson, who live-blogged the protests, joined Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! to discuss Walmart's failing attempts to suppress the strikes.
Click here to watch the video.
Strikers have returned to work with their heads held high and their wallets full at Walmart’s largest North American distribution center. Warehouse workers in Elwood, Illinois, announced Saturday that they had won their key demand, reinstatement of all who were fired or suspended for on-the-job organizing, along with full back pay for everyone who participated in the three-week strike.
“I think there’s been a hit in Walmart’s armor,” said Phil Bailey, one of the strikers who marched triumphantly back into the warehouse in matching Warehouse Workers for Justice t-shirts. “There’s been this expectation that they can’t be damaged at all. Not true!”
The returning workers also saw immediate improvements in safety conditions in the warehouse. They finally received shin guards, which they have been requesting for some time to protect them from heavy carts, and giant ceiling fans were installed to help cool the warehouse, which can reach 120 degrees. “[Management] kept coming around asking us if we needed any additional safety equipment,” Bailey reported. “They’re a lot more polite.”
The average check for three weeks of back pay was around $900, said WWJ organizer Leah Fried. Even co-workers who had not struck, Bailey said, were proud and inspired—and envious of the back pay. Some told him they now wished they had gone out too.
“It’s unprecedented. This shows you don’t have to go through a card drive and recognition and negotiate a contract before you can take action,” said Bailey. “Workers in one subcontractor shut the whole place down.”
Clogging Walmart’s Arteries
The week before the victory, workers and their allies had built pressure on the company by rallying 600 people for a rally that included civil disobedience and arrests and by delivering a support petition with more than 100,000 signatures. Management shut down the warehouse for a day.
Fried credited the victory to the financial impact of the shutdown, along with the big community mobilization and the strikers’ pending legal case with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
The huge distribution center in Elwood receives 70 percent of Walmart’s imports and feeds smaller distribution centers around the Midwest and Canada to stock the shelves of Walmart stores. Trucks reportedly left the warehouse half-empty that day, contrary to regular company policy that they be packed tightly, “without any air.” Bailey estimated the one-day shutdown cost the company $10 to $12 million.
“This place is very strategic,” he said. “It’s at the heart of Walmart. You clog it up, you can give Walmart a heart attack.”
The remarkable victory by 38 strikers against one of the world’s biggest corporations is “significant for temp workers everywhere,” Fried said. The Elwood workers are employed by temp agency RoadLink, one of multiple staffing agencies contracted by Schneider Logistics, which in turn is contracted by Walmart to manage its warehouse. The multi-layered corporate structure is designed to insulate Walmart from responsibility and keep workers in a vulnerable and unstable situation.
Despite the risks, the past few weeks have seen an upsurge in labor actions under the umbrella of Walmart, the retail giant often considered U.S. labor’s most powerful foe. The Illinois victory came on the heels of a two-week strike at a Walmart warehouse in Southern California and a one-day strike by retail workers at multiple Walmart stores in the same region.
Today, OUR Walmart announced additional walkouts by Walmart retail workers in the Dallas, Seattle, Miami, Washington, D.C., Sacramento, and San Francisco areas.
A joint delegation of warehouse and retail workers and their allies will travel to Bentonville, Arkansas, tomorrow to protest at Walmart’s annual meeting for financial analysts. The workers will demand an end to retaliation throughout the Walmart system.
Organizing Without a Union
None of the workers involved in any of these job actions has a recognized union, though all are organizing through union-affiliated worker centers or organizations: Warehouse Workers for Justice (affiliated with the United Electrical Workers, UE) in Illinois, Warehouse Workers United (affiliated with Change to Win) in California, and OUR Walmart (connected with the Food and Commercial Workers) for the retail workers. The Illinois workers belong to the Warehouse Workers Organizing Committee.
“It’s a long-haul strategy around a worker center,” said Bailey. “Hopefully this model will spread.”
Labor law protects non-union workers’ right to band together to better their working conditions, and even to strike over unfair labor practices, like the retaliation the Illinois workers experienced for protesting conditions on the job. The NLRB is gathering testimony on the workers’ charges that RoadLink fired, suspended, and refused to hire workers in retaliation for union activity. Although the company has already reinstated and repaid them, Fried said that if the board finds merit in the charges, possible additional remedies might include further back pay, postings advising workers of their rights, or changes to company policies.
Buoyed by their victory, workers in the Illinois warehouse plan to reach out to more co-workers and continue to organize for fair pay for all hours worked, safe conditions, and an end to discrimination and harassment on the job. “We have a long way to go here,” said Fried.
But the workers have more tricks up their sleeves for Walmart, too. “They don’t even want to know the things we were planning to do to them if this didn’t work,” Bailey said. “They’re lucky they settled so soon.”
October 4, 2012: On Monday, October 1, 600 warehouse workers and union supporters shut down Wal-Mart's largest US distribution center, in Elmwood, Illinois, in a dramatic show of solidarity.
Workers and community allies were engaged in a nonviolent protest of wage theft, substandard working conditions and retaliation against striking workers. Police in riot gear met them at the gates where they arrested 17 of the protesters, including a county commissioner and several ministers.
Inspired by the Wal-Mart warehouse workers in Southern California, who walked off the job on September 12, and organized a 50 mile, six-day "WalMarch" to raise awareness of their working conditions, 38 of the Elmwood workers went on strike Sept 15.
The workers who supply all of Wal-Mart's stores work for subcontractors often make less than minimum wage, get no benefits or even a set hourly schedule, and are forced to tolerate horrible and unsafe conditions.
Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ) estimate that the company lost approximately $8 million Tuesday. Wal-Mart closed the warehouse as a result of the protest.
The workers in Elmwood filed their sixth lawsuit for labor violations in the last 3 years. Their most recent case claims Roadlink Workforce Solutions, Wal-Mart's Elmwood contractor, frequently failed to pay overtime and minimum wage, violating federal and local laws.
WWJ is an independent workers center founded by an affiliate of the United Electrical Workers (UE) with support from other unions and organizations.
Click here to watch a video of the Wal-Mart warehouse workers in California talking about why they went out strike.
September 20, 2012: Speculation continues over the future of some 80,000 union workers employed by the grocery giant Super Valu, as the corporation continues to seek a buyer or takeover bid.
Most of the union jobs are as clerks and meatcutters in the United Food and Commercial Workers, but thousands of Teamsters work as drivers and warehouse workers as well.
Super Valu, based in Minneapolis, continues to lose market share to unionized competitors such as Kroger and to anti-union Wal-Mart, which pays poverty wages and skimpy benefits.
Analysts believe Super Valu may likely be sold in pieces, which increases concern for Teamsters and other Super Valu workers. Super Valu operated under its own name, but most of its operations are under such labels as Acme and Shaws/Star Market in the East, Jewel-Osco and Cub Stores in the Midwest, and Albertson’s and Lucky’s in the west.
Often when a corporation is sold in pieces, buyers demand union concessions. This puts clouds over Teamster contract bargaining at the various units.
The issue highlights the need for strong successor language in Teamster contracts.
Read more here.
A letter from Change to Win's Strategic Organizing Center:
Warehouse workers in Southern California went on strike this morning, following months of high tension, high temperatures and extreme pressure in a major Walmart-contracted warehouse. These courageous workers walked off the job to protest retaliation by their warehouse employers.
Their plight is not uncommon in Walmart-contracted warehouses, which I learned from firsthand experience. After five years of lifting heavy boxes every day in the warehouse, my body aches. I am 31. Walking is difficult, lifting my son is nearly impossible, and I frequently have very painful back spasms. I finally left my job at the warehouse after I seriously hurt my back.
But I had to fight for medical attention. The managers of the warehouse didn't care about my health or safety. They tried to prevent me from seeing a doctor. I fought and I won medical care, but I have seen a lot of my coworkers fired for similar injuries. They leave the warehouse hurt, with no job and no healthcare.
We move goods for Walmart, but we are treated like we are disposable. To this day it makes me angry. That's why I am joining with other workers and people who support us to end these inhumane working conditions.
Together, we can improve the lives of the thousands of people who live with these conditions on a daily basis. Support warehouse workers and sign our letter to Walmart. We will deliver it to Walmart executives when we arrive in Los Angeles at the end of our march.
Click here to sign on to the letter!
Thank you for your support,
San Bernardino, California
More than 350 Bronx factory workers are on strike against one of the largest pharmaceutical manufacturers in the world.
The union workers—who manufacture and package medical ointments and creams at a Perrigo factory on Bathgate Ave.—were locked out Tuesday morning when they returned to work after Labor Day, they said Wednesday.
"I came here ready to work and, all of a sudden, I'm out on the street," said Lawrence McRae, a 55-year-old a pump operator.
Several of the striking workers are former Stella D'oro employees who lost their jobs in 2009 when the beloved Bronx cookie factory moved to Ohio following a bitter year-long strike.
Perrigo didn't return a request for comment.
The striking workers sat on camping chairs and stood behind police barriers Wednesday, eyeing security guards and Port Authority police officers stationed outside the Perrigo site.
The factory is located in the Bathgate Industrial Park on land that Perrigo leases from the Port Authority, which owns and operates the complex.
The conflict began last week when the workers rejected the terms of a new contract proposed by Perrigo, they said. Their old contract with the company expired Aug. 31 at midnight.
Perrigo offered a three-year wage increase of $1.80 an hour but the workers want a larger bump. They argue the starting wage at the factory is too low.
"The cost of living is going up," said Christopher Padilla, 23, a porter who attends community college after work. "How am I supposed to pay $1,000 a month for rent and pay for school when I make $8.75 an hour?"
Most new workers start at $8.50 an hour and many longtime workers make under $15 an hour despite decades on the job, they said. They handle chemicals and operate dangerous machines. Many live in the Bronx.
McRae believes Perrigo is stingy with its Bronx workers because the borough is poor, he said.
"I'm here more than 21 years and I make $13 an hour," he said. "People are being cheated out of the right wages. We don't want greedy wages, just fair wages."
The workers belong to Teamsters Local 210 but they and the union are at odds, several said. Bob Bellach, vice president of Local 210, said he believes the Perrigo proposal is reasonable because it offers a 4% wage hike, the largest the Bronx workers have ever received.
But the workers feel they deserve more and the company won't budge he said, calling the situation a "stalemate."
Michigan-based Perrigo is a leading supplier of prescription and non-prescription drugs to chain stores such as CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens. Its shares are traded on the NASDAQ.
UPDATED September 4, 2012:
So. Cal Teamsters: Two Year Wait—No Contract Books
The Southern California master grocery contract, covering 5,000 Teamsters, was ratified in October 2010. But after two years, members still can't get a copy of their contract.
How can members enforce their contract if they can't even get a copy?
|Phil Richards, Unified Grocers|
Local 630, Los Angeles
"This has to be a record for delaying giving us our contract," said Phil Richards, a warehouse worker for Unified Grocers in Local 630. "When members ask for a copy, we get an excuse. In every local, the excuse is different; but the result is the same: we don't have the contract books, so we can't hold the employer to the agreement."
Many other Teamsters have been given the runaround when they've tried to get a copy of their new contract. Sometimes even our national contracts are delayed by the International Union for a year or more.
Fortunately, members' rights to their contract is backed up by federal law. Knowing and using this legal right can help you enforce your contract.
Your Legal Rights
Union members have a right to have their current collective bargaining agreement—no ifs, ands, or buts. If the actual contract book is not yet printed, federal law requires that the local union provide a photocopy to any member who requests the contract.
This is part of the federal Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA).
If local union officers put you off when you ask for a copy, your request should be put in writing and mailed certified mail.
What About Side Letters?
Union members also have a right to get a copy of any amendments, riders, side letters, or memoranda of understanding.
Some union officials give members the runaround in providing those agreements too. Just ask Rhode Island Hospital Teamsters.
For two months, Local 251 officials have stonewalled members and refused to give them copies of these side agreements.
In the meantime, hospital management has repeatedly pulled out side deals they've cut with the local union and used them to deny members' grievances.
Under the Teamster constitution, members also have the right to vote on any mid-contract changes that amend the contract. (Local officers can reach side agreements that clarify existing language, but not to implement a side agreement that changes the contract without a ratification vote by the members.)
As we go to press, TDU members at Rhode Island Hospital have contacted the International Union's Legal Department and are preparing to take legal action, if necessary, to enforce their right to a complete copy of their contract, including all side agreements.*
Are you having trouble getting a copy of your contract? Or do you have other questions about your legal rights? Contact Teamsters for a Democratic Union at 313-842-2600 or click here to send us a message.
*Updated Sept. 4, 2012: Persistence pays off! With help from TDU, Local 251 members have enforced their legal rights and gotten Local 251 to provide them with copies of all the side agreements between union officials and Rhode Island Hospital management.
September 15, 2011: Sandy Pope’s first Teamster job was a warehouse selector. Now she’s running for General President on a program of standing up to grocery employers.
Grocery Teamsters are under attack: production harassment, two-tier contracts, and growing nonunion competition.
Sandy Pope says grocery Teamsters can fight back and win. She’s winning over grocery Teamsters with her proven record and platform for change.
“Sandy’s fought for grocery Teamsters at every level of our union—from Local President to International Rep for the Warehouse Division,” said Damon Coleman, a member of Local 572 at Ralphs in Los Angeles.
“Sandy knows our issues. Hoffa doesn’t have a clue.”
She Fights for Us
“The bosses at my warehouse know that Sandy Pope will go to the mat for us—drivers and warehouse workers,” said Bill O’Bayley, a grocery steward in Local 805. “That’s what you want in your President.”
“Sandy’s brought different local unions together to take on employers who are threatening to move our jobs,” said Gina Porcello, a Local 863 Teamster. “She’s smart, she’s tough and you can tell she really cares. It seems like the only time Hoffa thinks about grocery Teamsters is when he wants our vote.”
“The attack on grocery Teamsters is national and it’s serious,” Pope says. “Hoffa has stripped the Warehouse Division down to two full-time staffers. Local unions have been left to fend for themselves. That’s no way to run an International Union.
“I will cut the fat and put more IBT reps out in the field to help locals bargain strong contracts. We’ll launch aggressive campaigns by market area to defend our standards by taking on employers, including the nonunion competitors that are undercutting our contracts,” Pope said.
Pope has done it before. As an International Union Rep, Sandy Pope was assigned to troubleshoot difficult grocery contract negotiations. She won the first-ever union contract at C&S—the largest third-party food distribution company in the world.
Hoffa Can’t Run on His Record
“Hoffa can’t run on his failed record, so he’s trying to destroy mine. It won’t work. I’m the only candidate in this race with a proven track record of taking on grocery employers and winning,” Pope said.
“We need a fighter. Hoffa’s all talk. I’m marking the ballot for Sandy Pope,” Gina Porcello said.
“Sandy’s fought for grocery Teamsters at every level of our union—from Local President to International Rep for the Warehouse Division. Sandy knows our issues. Hoffa doesn’t have a clue.”
Damon Coleman, Ralphs Local 572, Los Angeles
“The bosses at my warehouse know that Sandy Pope will go to the mat for us—drivers and warehouse workers.
“That’s what you want in your President.”
Bill O’Bayley, White Rose Local 805, New Jersey
September 15, 2011: As an International Union Rep, Sandy Pope won the first union contract at C&S—the largest third-party food distribution company in the world.
When C&S took over Pathmark’s distribution work in New Jersey in the 1990s, Sandy Pope was dispatched by the International Union to take on this threat.
C&S wanted to go nonunion—like they had done at other warehouses. The International Union and local leaders launched a corporate campaign to save good Teamster jobs.
As an International Union Rep, Sandy Pope worked with Local 863 leaders and stewards to take on C&S—and the nonunion giant backed down. Members’ jobs were saved and they won the first-ever union contract at C&S.
Sandy Pope also negotiated a groundbreaking neutrality agreement with C&S that gave our union the power to organize other nonunion C&S facilities without management interference.
Under the agreement negotiated by Sandy Pope, C&S’s unionized operations grew. You can download the agreement here.
Hoffa let the neutrality agreement expire—and Teamster members have paid the price. This year alone, C&S has eliminated more than 1,500 Teamster jobs by shifting its work to nonunion facilities. Other Teamsters have been forced to take concessions at the risk of losing their jobs.