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Thursday, February 21 , 2019, 2:49 am | Fair 45º

 
 
 
 
Advice

Workers Union Claims Haggen Layoffs Are Illegal

A workers union is filing charges against Haggen stores, Albertsons and Vons, claiming the grocery chains failed to fully inform workers about job protections — even alleging Haggen had planned all along to close stores and lay off employees.

Los Angeles-based United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 770 this week announced plans to file complaints levying fraud, misrepresentation and violation of labor contract charges against Haggen, Vons and Albertsons.

Haggen, a Bellingham, Wash.-based chain, earlier this month revealed the chain would be closing or selling 27 stores in five states — many of them acquired this year as part of the 146 Haggen picked up from AB Acquisition LLC and Safeway Inc., the entity created when Safeway (owner of Vons) merged with Albertsons.

None of the six Santa Barbara County stores made the list, but the company didn’t rule out future closures.

Sixteen California stores are on the chopping block, with most of them in Los Angeles and San Diego.

Haggen cut hours for many of its new employees in July and caught heat — and a class action discrimination lawsuit — after laying off 14 developmentally disabled people working as courtesy clerks at some of six Santa Barbara County stores.

Haggen’s response to that lawsuit isn't due for another week, said Matthew Da Vega, an attorney with Da Vega, Fisher and Mechtenberg, LLP who filed the complaint.

UFCW LOCAL 770, which has a Santa Barbara office, sent a letter detailing leadership outrage to its 29,000 Los Angeles area workers in the retail food, meat, drug store and food processing industries.

“We are pursuing every possible avenue to hold both Haggen and Albertsons/Vons responsible and to demand solutions that will provide you with relief and compensation,” the union wrote in a letter.

“This is a top priority for us and we have several attorneys evaluating this matter from every angle.”

The union claims Haggen is illegally laying off workers and cutting hours, according to negotiated protections that led workers to believe they would retain jobs, seniority and benefits.

UFCW LOCAL 770 grievances also cite illegal dismissal of senior and disabled workers.

“We will not stand idly by as management tries to pull the wool over their employees’ eyes,” Rick Icaza, president of UFCW Local 770, said in a statement.

“These companies have misled and mistreated their employees either through gross self-interest or gross incompetence, either of which is unacceptable. Real people are suffering loss of wages, health care, seniority, and outright loss of their jobs. We will do everything in our power to hold management accountable and return our members to their jobs with full benefits intact.”

In a statement Tuesday, Haggen representatives defended the company's commitment to employees.

“​Haggen has great respect for the labor unions’ role in supporting our associates,” the company said. 

“We care about the people who work for Haggen and are disappointed that factors beyond our control have led to layoffs and closures in some of the new communities where we had expected our stores to thrive. The assertion that 'Haggen planned all along to shut and sell those stores,' as alleged in by the union in its grievance, is completely and unequivocally false.

“Throughout this process, Haggen has abided by the terms of the union contracts and is continuing to do everything it can to ensure the success of all of our stores and employees.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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