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PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. -- Hundreds of unionized supermarket workers from as far away as Chicago today attended a rally in support of the right for the workers at Genuardi's Supermarkets to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union. Genuardi's is owned by Safeway, one of the largest supermarket companies in the nation. The majority of Safeway workers around the nation are unionized members of the UFCW.
The UFCW International Union's Regional Director, Mark Lauritsen, said today's rally was the kickoff of a campaign to bring the benefits of a union contract to Genuardi's workers in the Philadelphia region. He noted that workers from the Dominick's supermarket chain in Chicago as well as Safeway workers from Baltimore and Washington, DC, all members of the UFCW, were at the rally to show support for Genuardi's workers.
"Genuardi's workers are making history today, and the UFCW is here to give them every tool they need to stand up and save their stores," said Lauritsen.
Since Safeway bought Genuardi's, the once profitable and family-owned supermarket chain has lost many customers. The customer drop off has been attributed to Safeway's removal of many popular products, a decrease in the variety of products available and severe cuts in service due to Safeway management cutting hours and benefits for the workers.
Wendell W. Young, III, the President of UFCW Local 1776, told the Genuardi's workers attending the rally that they "deserved the same respect as Safeway and Dominick's workers and should be treated the same way as every other Safeway worker in the rest of the country." He went on to encourage Genuardi's workers to speak to the Safeway and Dominick's workers from Chicago, Baltimore and Washington, DC and see how these workers benefited from membership in the UFCW.
The UFCW members from Dominick's in Chicago told Genuardi's workers that when Safeway took over Dominick's the only protection the workers had was the fact that they already belonged to the UFCW.
"Safeway came in and ran our Dominick's stores into the ground," said Jerry Salin, a 26-year Dominick's employee from Addison, Illinois. "Thank goodness we had a union. We had the power to sit at the table with Safeway and force them to make changes. We saved our stores with our UFCW voice."
"Today's rally is just the start of the UFCW's campaign to allow Genuardi's workers to have the protections and rights that come with a union contract," said Wendell W. Young, III. "We are very grateful to our UFCW International Union for arranging to have the workers from Safeway and Dominick's come here to tell the Genuardi's workers about their experiences with Safeway. That member-to-member testimony is what makes the difference in organizing drives like this and it shows the Genuardi's workers that the UFCW really cares about our union members, wherever they work."
The United Food and Commercial Workers represents over 1.4 million workers in a variety of industries in the United States and Canada.