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    Hungry for Respect Study 'Nothing more than a Smear Campaign': Bashas' Proulx

    CHANDLER, Ariz. -- The recent study conducted by Hungry for Respect, a coalition of grocery store employees, their union, and community groups, which claimed to find widespread stocking of expired infant formula at Bashas'-owned stores in Arizona, is "a disguised project of the UFCW that is nothing more than a smear campaign against us," Bashas' president Mike Proulx told Progressive Grocer.

    CHANDLER, Ariz. -- The recent study conducted by Hungry for Respect, a coalition of grocery store employees, their union, and community groups, which claimed to find widespread stocking of expired infant formula at Bashas'-owned stores in Arizona, is "a disguised project of the UFCW that is nothing more than a smear campaign against us," Bashas' president Mike Proulx told Progressive Grocer.

    According to the coalition, the study was based on an investigation conducted in May and June 2007, during which Hungry for Respect members shopped at 105 Bashas'-owned stores operating under the Bashas' Supermarkets, Food City, and AJ's Fine Foods banners in Arizona to see if the stores were stocking and selling expired infant formula.

    The investigation alleged that 58 percent of Bashas' stores visited and more than half of the Food City stores visited in the Phoenix, Tucson, and Yuma areas stocked expired infant formula, suggesting that stocking expired infant formula is a widespread problem at these stores. The investigation also claims that 10 percent of the Bashas' upscale AJ's Fine Food stores visited sold expired formula.

    According to Proulx, the results of the study are simply untrue. "We have a solid record with the health department, and have passed every unannounced site inspection for the past two years," he said. "These are lies about how we do our business, lies about how our employees feel about us, and an insult to the 14,000 members who work for us."

    The tension between Bashas' and the unions stems from the retailer's change in health care, which the union claimed hurt the employees. Since several of Bashas' stores are former union shops, the unions cited this as the main reason those stores' employees should be unionized. Proulx, however, stressed that the health care given to its employees is the same as that of its executives, and is stronger than plans offered by the unions.

    "They are just looking for more paying members," said Proulx. "Our employees are very happy here. In fact, The Phoenix Business Journal recently named Bashas' as one of the top 30 Best Places to Work in Maricopa County, an award based solely on the employee's survey results, which included topics such as work environment, career opportunities, and benefits."

    Bashas' was also named Progressive Grocer's 2005 Retailer of the Year.

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