Union Leader Says He Will Urge A Boycott Of Carrefour Store

Posted: December 20, 1987

The United Food and Commercial Workers will use advertisements and possibly pickets to urge a consumer boycott of the Carrefour "hypermarket" store set to open in January in the new Franklin Mills retail complex, a leader of the union said.

Although Carrefour, a French company, generally does not have unionized workers in its stores outside France, the Philadelphia union's objections go far beyond questions about wages and benefits, said Wendell W. Young 3d, president of Local 1357.

Young said he thinks the store, which is expected to sell groceries and a variety of department-store goods at discount prices, will be so harmful to area grocery workers that if he were asked to organize the Carrefour employees he wouldn't do it.

"They wreak havoc in the retail business with these monster-type stores," Young said, contending that Carrefour will "feed off the other stores" in the area by taking customers away from them.

The result, he said, will be a loss of jobs for United Food and Commercial Workers members at seven supermarkets within a few blocks of the Carrefour site on the former Liberty Bell Race Track grounds at Woodhaven and Knights Roads.

The union already has started a campaign of radio and television advertisements opposing the store, and picketing is "a very strong possibility" when the store opens, Young said.

Carrefour expects to open the 330,000-square-foot store, its first in the United States, next month, said Gary Lewi, a spokesman. "They're talking about the middle of the month," he said.

The company has no problem with the prospect of pickets, he said. ''Informational picketing is their right."

He denied that Carrefour could do business only by seriously hurting competitors. "The very early market surveys indicated that this is a growing marketplace and able to accommodate additional retailing," he said.

But the area around Carrefour already is "the most over-stored area in Southeastern Pennsylvania," which means that there are more grocery stores than the population can support, Young contended.

Within a few blocks of the new store, Thriftway, O&O, Pathmark, Shop Rite, Shop 'N Bag, Super Fresh and Acme already have supermarkets, and several of these are struggling, he said.

If Carrefour offers cheaper prices, "they're going to compete on one basis alone - the backs of the people that work there," Young said.

The store certainly will benefit from volume buying, he said. But "Acme has 360 stores in this area," he added. "They're not going to buy food any cheaper than Acme."

Carrefour has advertised openings for clerks starting at $5 an hour, which is the same starting wage as most area supermarkets, Young said. "But they're not going to pay $350 a month (per employee) for health and welfare benefits and another $200 a month (per employee) for pensions," he said. "And they're not going to pay $6, $7, $8, $9, $10 an hour" for more experienced people.

Union wages at area supermarkets range from $5 to $12 an hour, he said.

Lewi said the company was in the process of hiring 300 to 500 people for the Philadelphia store. He said he did not know how many had been hired so far.

He declined to discuss the company's wage scales. Whether the company offers equitable wages and benefits is "basically a question employees will be able to decide upon based on the information they have . . . as opposed to a public debate," he said.

"We are competitive in the marketplace" for hiring workers, Lewi said. ''We are a company that can be proud not only of our benefits but also of the fact that many executives have risen from entry-level positions."

Lewi also would not discuss how the store could offer discounted prices, or its competitive strategy.

But one big selling point is convenience, he said. "It allows the consumer to waste little time buying soup to nuts all under one roof" along with department-store goods, he said.

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