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An Arizona Superior Court Judge last week granted Bashas’ permission to amend its racketeering lawsuit against the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union.
“We look forward to our day in court when we can clear our good name and defend our 12,000-plus workforce," said Mike Proulx, Bashas’ president and COO.
The lawsuit, originally filed Dec. 18, 2007, will now also include the following charges: In a meeting with Bashas’, the UFCW boasted that it had destroyed Mega Foods and Southwest Supermarkets. The UFCW threatened to also “destroy” Bashas’ by spreading false information to the general public and planting expired product on the shelves of its stores if Bashas’ management team didn’t sign a contract allowing the UFCW to represent all of its employees. The union’s threat to destroy Bashas’ included the destruction of a handful of stores represented by the UFCW that Bashas’ purchased years ago. (Actions like these are in violation of Arizona's criminal offense of extortion.) The UFCW has conducted similar destructive campaigns directed at other companies, including Farmer Joe’s, Mega Foods, Southwest Supermarkets and Smithfield, according to Bashas’.
The court ruled that the UFCW can’t use a confidentiality agreement to hide union threats that amount to extortion, and that Bashas’ can pursue claims that the UFCW used similar tactics in attacking and destroying other grocers in Arizona and elsewhere.
“This is the type of 30s-style, labor leader misbehavior that gives unions a bad reputation,” said Mike Manning of Stinson, Morrison Hecker, the law firm representing Bashas’ in the suit. “The union's behavior here in Arizona is both damaging to Bashas’ and the labor movement.”
Bashas’ filed a racketeering/defamation lawsuit against the UFCW in December 2007 for several charges, including conducting defamatory phone surveys; attempting to create a phony health scare about Bashas’ products; distributing misleading flyers, door hangers and direct mail pieces; crafting, distributing and publicizing inflammatory and false reports; calling in false reports to governmental agencies alleging health code and other violations; organizing public demonstrations both inside and outside of stores, with the goal of disrupting and discouraging business; showing up uninvited to homes of Bashas’ employees; arranging “town-hall-style” meetings to encourage a destructive boycott of Bashas’; paying for automated, pre-recorded phone and text messages that disparage Bashas’ and Food City stores; paying a prominent and recognizable media outlet to defame Bashas’; stealthily funding vocal community activists to serve as spokespersons against Bashas’; and making personal home visits to encourage shoppers to boycott Bashas’ and Food City stores.
The lawsuit is expected to go to trial in 2010.
Chandler, Ariz.-based Bashas’ operates more than 150 stores in Arizona, California, and New Mexico.