Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Unionized Kroger buys nonunion Schnucks stores in Memphis; Louisiana business leaders fight against higher wages for migrant workers

Goodbye to nonunion Schnucks grocery stores in Memphis

The ubiquitous Rose Turner, organizing director for Local 1529 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, was on the streets of Memphis talking to grocery store workers when I called her a few days ago.

Kroger's Delta Division was in the process of taking over nine Memphis-area Schnucks supermarkets. Kroger had announced its purchase of the stores from one of its major competitors earlier in the month.

Kroger workers are unionized, and the St. Louis-based Schnucks had resisted unionization ever since it came to Memphis 10 years ago. According to the Memphis Daily News, Schnucks' 13 percent of the area market will add to Kroger's 30 percent market share.

Schnucks' 1,200 workers in Memphis will have to reapply to Kroger's to keep their jobs. Several Schnucks stores in the area will close as a result of the deal.

"Schnucks was union in St. Louis, then they tried to be nonunion" in Memphis, Turner said. "We tried to organize them when they first came here. They said, `We are going to close if we go union.'"

(To the left is UFCW organizer Rose Turner)

Well, they closed anyway after 10 years, and a union-represented company bought them out, Turner said.

Turner is fresh from a successful organizing campaign at Water Valley Poultry in Water Valley, Miss., and she also is a key organizer of catfish plant workers in the Mississippi Delta.

Louisiana business coalition files suit to keep from paying migrant workers better wages

Federal rules requiring wage increases of up to 83 percent for migrant workers with H-2B visas have prompted a protest from Louisiana business interests, including sugar cane and seafood processors, amusement park operators and hotel owners.

Earlier this month, the business coalition filed a federal lawsuit in Alexandria to keep the rules from being implemented, according to the Associated Press. The business coalition argues that the rules put its members at a competitive disadvantage, and they will not be able to pay the higher wages.

The rules are scheduled to take effect Sept. 30. A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for Sept. 23.

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