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The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is alleging that Louisiana grocery chain Rouses is engaging in such obstructionist behavior as calling the police to arrest workers and other union members trying to talk to associates about organizing a labor union, thereby denying their First Amendment right to assembly.
“Workers play a big part in the company’s success,” said Chad Young, director of Grapevine, Texas-based UFCW Region 5, “and they should share in that success with a voice on the job for paychecks that can support families, affordable, quality health care and job security.”
The union says that although Houma, La.-based Rouses permits many groups to mingle with workers and shoppers outside its stores, the company bars UFCW members and company workers from disseminating information and holding conversations on the subject of forming a union.
“The UFCW is filing unfair labor practice charges against the grocer on behalf of workers and union members who believe their rights were violated,” noted Young. “It’s the workers’ choice on whether they want a union. Rouses should abide by the law and stop interfering with that right.”
Rouses has countered that the union organizers, who came from Texas, New Mexico and Tennessee, illegally entered non-public areas of 31 Rouses Markets across south Louisiana, in violation of the grocer's clearly stated no-solicitation policy. According to the company, the organizers "falsely presented themselves as Rouses representatives, lied to Rouses' employees and law enforcement, and used deceitful tactics to distribute union cards and deceptive and inaccurate information to Rouses employees."
"These out-of-date, dishonest techniques are what have given unions across the nation a bad reputation," noted chain co-owner Donald Rouse, The company said that union organizers in several Louisiana parishes who refused law enforcement's requests to vacate the premises were arrested, but that no arrests involve any current or former Rouses employee.
The UFCW represents over 1.3 million workers, mainly in the retail, meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries.