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VIDEO: Pro-Union Protests at Fresh & Easy

Protesters at the Eagle Rock Boulevard supermarket demand unionization and a safer work environment for employees.

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.

Dan Kaufman April 05, 2011 at 02:51 AM
I'd be happy if they hired a chimp to help check me out. Fresh, maybe. Easy? Not.
Chip April 05, 2011 at 04:21 PM
Um, who is Councilmember "Alacom"? At the 1:00 minute mark a title appears identifying a speaker as "Jose Cigala, From Councilmember Alacom's office". I believe that would be Jose SIGALA, an aide to Council Member Richard ALARCON. If Patch really wants to be taken seriously as a community information board then you need to at the very least identify officials by their correct names.
mark April 05, 2011 at 05:27 PM
Interesting. I started doing the vast majority of my shopping at Trader Joes when the grocery stores had their big strike a few years back. Since moving to ER a year ago I've put F&E into my rotation. I guess I'll have to drop it. Oh well, I can't say I'll miss it all that much.
Michael Acuna April 05, 2011 at 06:07 PM
Fresh&Easy Market needs to reconize there employees if they want to unionize becuz its our right 2 organize & we choose 2 be united. I wasnt pleased that my speech was cut off @ the end there. Maybe better editing needs 2 be implied here.
Philipp Sander April 05, 2011 at 06:39 PM
Yes, I'm very sorry about the typos - we rushed to get the video out, and this slipped by our last check. It is Jose Sigala from Alarcon's office.
Donna TV April 05, 2011 at 08:21 PM
I agree with Mark. I shop at Trader Joes and at the Super "A" on York Blvd...F & E is a real turn off.
Ken Camp April 05, 2011 at 09:51 PM
I would avoid Richard Alarcon. Many years ago he hosted a party at City Hall for gang members "who had not killed anyone in five years." There was much coverage in the newspapers. So there you have it. He was also embroiled in a controversy this past year over his residency requirements to hold that council position. He was living outside of his council district, blaming that on a homeless person breaking into his home and taking a dump in his bed. Ken Camp, Los Angeles
Isabella Castillo April 06, 2011 at 12:41 AM
Agree. If you choose so, they should recognize you. Philipp already said though that they rushed the video. Doesn't matter that your speech was cut off. The video got your group's point across just fine.
D Stewart April 06, 2011 at 03:20 AM
I don't shop at main stream grocery stores, Fresh and easy like Trader Joe's are big community supporters. I've talked to F&E employees and some are just happy with the benefits, hours, and don't not want to be unionized. The "Unions" are not what they use to be, times have changes and they need to go away.
Philipp Sander April 06, 2011 at 03:29 AM
Hi Michael, again, I'm sorry about the editing - we will have a corrected video up tomorrow. Also watch for an indepth story about the union's conflict with Fresh&Easy, probably published tomorrow. For the record, Michael was cut off finishing the sentence at "good company to work for".
Dan Kaufman April 06, 2011 at 03:35 AM
So the decision to unionize shoul be made by as a result of your informal poll? What about letting them all decide?
Philipp Sander April 06, 2011 at 03:42 AM
FYI: There are two legally recognized methods to unionize a workforce. One is through a secret ballot election held by the National Labor Relations Board, after at least 30% of the employees have requested that election in writing. The other option is to present proof that 50% + 1 of the employees request unionization to the employer. In that case the employer can voluntarily unionize the workforce.
Dave On Cazador Ridge April 06, 2011 at 04:55 AM
If the employees want to unionize, fine - but as a Glassell Park resident with only the ratty Super A on Division as an alternative to Fresh & Easy, I LOVE F&E. It was abysmal shopping in this neighborhood before they opened - and they're still dirt-cheap compared to far worse, dirtier stores nearby. It's quick, I find the self-checkout easy and fast, and their convenience foods & store brands are great values. It may not be perfect, but is it critical fund union-wage cashiers through higher prices? No, not really. I don't find the service, selection, cleanliness etc. any better in the unionized grocery stores, and the prices are MUCH MUCH higher. Fresh & Easy ROCKS.
A . Reyes April 06, 2011 at 05:56 AM
the comment about the protesters NOT being Fresh n Easy employees and just hired sign holders is WRONG . you see thats what Fresh n Easy brass wants you to think , they are trying to break us down and destroy our efforts in the public eye. we were told that "if we wanted a union , you can have one. as soon as they got wind of us wanting to form a union , they had a survey typed up asked us to answer the questions , those of us who put down we were in favor of a union were either fired straight out , or transferd or demoted. this really pisses me off , i'm not the kind of person to let someone push me around. theres a storm coming Fresh n Easy !
mark April 06, 2011 at 05:49 PM
Yikes. I can see you live up there on your ridge without too much concern for those down below. I mean these people are just trying to make a living. They aren't driving away from F&E in BMWs or anything like that. Plus they've already automated the place, to reduce the number of employees. Besides am I the only one that is sensitive to the fact that we've already kicked the English out of the old USA for taking advantage of workers. 1776 - In all seriousness I say we take back the tea party concept and have a big old protest on the 4th of July.
Dave On Cazador Ridge April 06, 2011 at 06:05 PM
Yes Mark, I do live up on the Ridge and oddly enough I do "drive away in my BMW" - and yes, the areas "down below" can be a little challenging at times in a lot of ways. However - I am in and out of that store five times a week, have been since it opened, and I've never sensed that it was understaffed. I have always found the employees there to be friendly, smiling, helpful and active in the aisles - more than any other union grocery store in LA. (I will say - I did not recognize every employee in that video, but I'm not ready to jump on the accusation that there were plants at the protest) I'm not condoning any mistreatment that may be occurring but ultimately, with the levels of unemployment in California right now, I salute any company that's trying to expand and create jobs, and at the same time a better job of serving its communities than its competitors, which I believe Tesco is doing with F&E.
Hershel April 06, 2011 at 06:29 PM
@D Stewart: Read A. Reyes' comments. THAT'S why we still need unions.
mark April 06, 2011 at 06:30 PM
I wasn't trying to comment on the car you drive. I live in the area myself and shop at Trader Joe's, Fresh and Easy, and Target. I celebrate every new coffee shop and overpriced sandwich shop. However I refuse to cross a union picket line. What is the point of gentrification and job creation, if the people in the jobs can not afford to live in the neighborhood. Yes, the levels of unemployment are scary right now in CA. However at the same time I feel lucky to have a job right now, I am outraged at the notion that employers take advantage of our fear of unemployment. It is strange that F&E give off this small neighborhood store vibe, when they are really anything but. Their low prices are driven by the fact that they are faceless corporation and that they ultimately have no investment in our community. Yes it is too expensive for me but Figueroa Produce Market is closer to the kind of place I would like to shop. I suppose if only they had a selection of well chosen cheaper products, I would do much more of my shopping there. Also from an environmental standpoint, what is the deal with F&E and even Trader Joe's. There is way too much packaging on everything. It would be nice if they could come up with a way to reduce/remove the packaging, rather than just making it biodegradable or what not.
Chip April 06, 2011 at 07:20 PM
For residents of Eastern/Southern Eagle Rock, Fresh & Easy is just darn convenient. No miles of aisles, just exactly the size to make popping in and picking up essentials a quick, simple task. It is exactly what it says it is - fresh ... and easy. The staff are always friendly and helpful. I will continue to shop there as they work towards unionization because in this economy they clearly need the work.
Joe Neighbor April 06, 2011 at 07:22 PM
Unions are doing the same by planting employees at F&E. See this link. http://www.ocregister.com/articles/union-35593-fresh-easy.html. I don't know who to believe. Why is only F&E is targeted and the same does not go on at Trader Joe's. T&J is also owned by a faceless German corporation. Non of the other markets in the area, Super A, Super King etc are unionized. People question the motives before taking sides, corporations and unions can be both evil manipulators.
Donna TV April 06, 2011 at 08:02 PM
I wish that Albertson's was back... It was the union that ran them out of that same location.
Anna Salas April 06, 2011 at 11:23 PM
"Joe Neighbor", seems like you are assuming that NO ONE has done their research before taking their side. That's offensive. While that may not have been your intention, the way you worded you last sentence is pretty condescending. I do agree, though, that both sides definitely can manipulate situations. It would be naive not think so. I already knew about and had read the article you posted a link to. While I understand the motives of those mentioned in the article, that took a leave of absence from their union jobs, I think it can send the wrong message to the customers who aren't aware of everything going on. Obviously, as we can see by your post. I also don't like that, because of their tactics, from now on, every store that wishes to go union, will now be questioned as to whether there were union plants. I just wanted to assure you that there are absolutely no union plants at the Eagle Rock store. As far as to why "only F&E is targeted and the same does not go on at trader joe's", it is pretty simple. These F&E employees want a union and are being denied. The other stores haven't had any such issues, as far as we the public know. The Eagle Rock F&E employees obviously want the union bad enough that they are trying to get the community's support, and that is what this video is all about. Isn't it??? I am glad to know what is going on in my community. Thnx EagleRockPatch!
Anna Salas April 06, 2011 at 11:36 PM
Some may be, but some are not. As long as the majority want the union, it is their right to join one. The unfortunate thing is, that since they declared they wanted a union 1 year ago, the company has not only fired and transferred employees, but they've also transferred in employees from other stores that they knew would not support the union. 1 day after they declared they wanted the union, they brought in a different manager who could "clean house". 3 days after they declared they wanted the union, they transferred in 6 employees from that same managers previous store, obviously to change the percentage of employees in favor of the union. And just so you know, transfers at F&E NEVER happen that fast.
Anna Salas April 06, 2011 at 11:48 PM
I agree! F&E is, as you say, "just darn convenient." lol No one wants you to stop shopping there completely and forever, because that would be just counter productive in the long run. Once in a while though, when it's not absolutely necessary that you go in that instance, maybe you could go somewhere else. It just lets F&E know that the community is not only aware of what is going on, but that they support the employees. It may not seem like it makes a difference, but it really does add when enough people walk away. Any ways, just think about it :D
Kael M April 07, 2011 at 08:12 PM
Good point! And it seems to me, by shopping at F&E, we are helping to keep its employees working. Let the employees decide the union question of course, but it seems to me the store is working just fine as things now stand - except for picketers blocking the doors.
Anna Salas April 07, 2011 at 09:39 PM
Once again, no one wants you to stop shopping there completely and forever, because that would be just counter productive in the long run. Once in a while though, when it's not absolutely necessary that you go in that instance, maybe you could go somewhere else. It just lets F&E know that the community is not only aware of what is going on, but that they support the employees. Obviously it's not working if the employees are asking for a union. While the union of course went seeking out the employees in hopes they could get them to go union, the employees still had to say yes. The employees had to want the help of the union. I'm sure the union is still trying to get Trader Joe's and other non union grocery stores to go union, but we haven't heard of anything going further or the employees wanting one. So what's different at this F&E hmm? They must want the unions help for a reason!
Philipp Sander April 08, 2011 at 01:31 AM
We've corrected the typos in the video.
Susan R May 03, 2012 at 03:07 PM
These people are not from Fresh and Easy. They are not even from the Northeast neighborhood.

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