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PHOENIX -- A local branch here of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union is reportedly attempting to stall Tesco's rollout of Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets in the area by targeting the chain's plan to sell liquor.
Union spokesman Mike Vespoli told the The Arizona Republic the union is responsible for last weekend's mailing and distribution of anonymous fliers that asked residents to protest the company's applications for liquor licenses at many of the 20 Fresh & Easy stores planned to open in the area. The flyers claimed Tesco had been caught selling liquor to underage customers in the United Kingdom.
Vespoli told the paper the union's name was purposely left off the flier. "We don’t want to make this a union issue," he said. "This is a neighborhood issue."
The fliers are an example of roadblocks the chain will have to face if it tries to be union-free, and are meant to persuade Tesco to enter union negotiations or have its development slowed, said Vespoli said. If the company will "cooperate and recognize the rights of workers to organize, then we'll be friends," Vespoli told the newspaper. "If not, we're going to be there to challenge every step of the way."
The Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control received approximately 150 e-mails representing both sides of the issue in response to the flier, said Sergeant Wes Kuhl, a department spokesman.
The e-mails could put a stick in Tesco's spokes if it generates a protest. Although the company applied for 20 liquor licenses for its stores in the area, none have been approved. If protested, the applications will face a hearing in front of the Arizona liquor board, which will have final approval of the applications, the report said.
Tesco's chief marketing officer, Simon Uwins, told the paper the flier misrepresents the company. "We're a bit disappointed."
Last fall three Tesco stores in England were caught selling alcohol to minors in a nationwide undercover sting that also investigated other retailers, the report said. In January one of the stores was suspended from selling alcohol for 28 days.
In other Tesco news, the company is expected to set up a Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market location in Hollywood, Calif., in a building that overlooks numerous famous names on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, reported the Financial Times. The location is also one block from the Kodak Theater, the site of the yearly Oscars award show.
The tourist-filled location will make it the focal point of its U.S. venture, the report said. To date, the company has identified more than 50 store locations in the Western United States, mainly in suburbs of Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
The store will be located on the ground floor of the Galaxy building, a former multiplex cinema and shopping center. Other tenants include LA Fitness, a discount shoe store, and the Knitting Factory jazz club.