On the death anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. Monday, employees, members and supporters of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union held a rally in the afternoon in support of union rights and safer working conditions for employees at the on Eagle Rock Boulevard.
"Martin Luther King Jr. died today 43 years ago in support of workers and for racial and economic equality," said UFCW Field Campaign Coordinator Jeff Ferro. "These workers also want fair treatment—they want a seat at the table, the right to dispute and discuss and not be in fear of harassment and terminations."
Ferro said that Fresh & Easy workers at the Eagle Rock Boulevard store gathered 16 signatures for a petition to unionize on March 26, 2010 but that the British-owned supermarket chain Tesco, which owns Fresh & Easy, defeated the workers' efforts by replacing the store's manager with an employee who brought in six additional workers evidently loyal to the management and increasing the total number of employees from 28 to 34. The 16 signatures ceased to represent a majority, Ferro said, and the workers wishing to unionize did not press their demands until today.
"We want to inform the community about what this company stands for," Ferro added. "It talks about values but these are the values they hold—there's a big gap between the things they say they do and what they actually do."
Brendon Wonnacott, a spokesman for Fresh & Easy in the company's El Segundo headquarters, said that "unionization is completely up to the employees [and] retaliation is against the law." Asked if Fresh & Easy had ever fired an employee for demanding unionization, Wonnacott said he could not comment on individual instances. But he added that "the company has upheld the law" regarding any employee's desire to unionize—effectively implying that no workers had been fired for asserting their right to join a labor union.