Haggen laying off dozens of workers, union filing grievances

July 16, 2015

By KAREN VELIE

Haggen, a Washington-based chain of grocery stores that recently purchased 83 new stores in California, has laid off dozens of Central Coast workers in the past few days while other employees were moved from full-time to part-time hours.

Haggen 2

Earlier this year, Haggen bought 146 Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions and Safeway stores. Employees retained their union contracts and were assured the company would do whatever it took to make the takeover successful.

Haggen Southwest CEO Bill Shaner blames competition from other grocery retailers for Haggen’s failures to retain customers.

“As we introduce Haggen throughout Southern California, Arizona and Nevada, our challenge is to establish and grow the brand in new markets, while transitioning former Albertsons/Vons customers,” Shaner said. “The competitive activity launched in response to our entry into the marketplace – while expected – has been unprecedented.”

However, some former customers said they changed grocery stores after Haggen increased pricing significantly. The customer base has fallen by almost 50 percent in some stores, one clerk said.

Store officials reacted with layoffs and terminations at Central Coast stores in Paso Robles, Atascadero, San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, Goleta, Lompoc, Santa Barbara and Los Osos. In Paso Robles, Haggen laid off 11 employees and cut the hours of 12 employees.

One employee who has worked in a San Luis Obispo County store since the 1980s, said he was informed over the weekend that his hours would be cut from full to part-time. He questions if the union is doing all it can to protect local Haggen employees.

Local UFCW officials said Haggen is trying to correct pricing issues and bring customers back.

“They assured us they will do whatever it takes to make it successful,” said Kathy Finn, the Local UFCW 770 director of collective bargaining. “They need to get it under control, and not by cutting staff.”

The union has responded to the current layoffs and hourly reductions by examining contracts and in some cases, filing grievances.

“We have already filed several grievances,” Finn said. “There are seniority provisions in place to protect employees. Layoffs and reductions have to be done by seniority.”

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JMO

I like having the choice to buy my groceries in whatever store I like. Sometimes I would buy things at Albertsons (a unionized store) that were better both quality wise and price wise. Sometimes we go to non-unionized stores like TJs or Walmart for good value. Sometimes we go to Food For Less. We get our milk and certain veggies from Costco. I like it that the government stays out of how these stores are run. If one store doesn’t do a good job, I as a customer can vote with my feet. Seems to work pretty well.

Why can’t I do that with my health insurance?

r0y

Shortly before the FTC forced sale, Albertsons/Vons drastically lowered their prices so Haggen would have to “continue” with the current pricing. Knowing full well they lacked the resources to absorb that kind of loss. The lower prices at Albertsons/Vons are not their normal prices either, and one can see them raising their prices now.

If Haggen (or Food 4 Less or California Fresh) leave / go out of business, how much do you think the prices will be at Albervons? The only competition that Albertsons and Vons ever feared was Wal Mart. There’s been a comfortable collusion with the big 3 (now 2): Safeway/Vons, Albertsons, Kroger/Ralphs over the last many years. They know how to squash a small upstart, but Wal Mart packs serious heat and is their biggest threat.

MaryMalone

Really? Haggans is in the financial mess it is now because of Albertson’s?

Absurd.

agag1

Not really Mary, both Albertson’s (who sold Haggen a bunch of their lemons) and Safeway/Von’s have lowered prices to attract their former customers to their other locations and away from Haggen. They knew Haggen wouldn’t be able to respond quickly while in the midst of renovating 140+ stores.
The stores Haggan purchased were a mixed bag, some profitable, others real losers.
The Albertson’ and Safeway boys are laughing all the way to the bank. Don’t think they didn’t know what they were doing.

flytrap

Well duh!! It’s too dang expensive!!!

SLO_Johnny

They are running a business and not a charity. Very few jobs at a supermarket require a lot of education, training, or experience. Union employees are getting paid much higher wages simply because of coordinated strikes again the larger chain stores like Vons/Safeway, Ralphs and Albertsons. Many of the other smaller chain stores are gone, out of business.
A number of companies have been closed down or sold off because the business isn’t very profitable.
Supermarket stores have to compete with the big box stores and other chains. It is difficult to attract capital to expand or even remodel the stores. The company must control costs and compete at the same time. That causes pressure to reduce labor costs and to reduce pay. It’s tough for the employees but the grocery business has changed dramatically over the last 10-20 years. The wages that were paid years ago cannot be maintained in the new competitive environment.

indigo1955

Just as soon as we start growing our own food and have chickens—we can avoid most of this mess. As for processed snacks…..hit a bake sale designed to support a good cause or support the Girl Scouts. We have grown reliant on grocery stores and they are aware of this. Time to buy a fishing pole?

CentralcoastRN

I like your idea, but the government does not.

You know that when and if enough people started growing their own food and raising their own chickens, the government would step in and “regulate” to make sure we property owners aren’t a harm to ourselves. After all, we aren’t as smart as gov’ment. Bake sales are already a problem. People have allergies, selling things as simple as homemade goods CAN require a permit depending on what is being sold and where. Government doesn’t make money on self sufficiency.

kayaknut

California Fresh at least waited a few months before raising their prices, they started out with a large number of specials and lower prices trying to get people to embrace them and once they felt they had established some loyalty they raised their prices and now they are like most stores in that they have some sales that are good and hope people will just do all their shopping there and not go store to store for the sales. Haggen it seems seems took a different route and raised all the prices at the start and I guess their hope to get shoppers was to send us a fancy color full flyer each week, I checked them out once and have never been back.

MaryMalone

I haven’t bought one thing from Haggen since they opened up, and I used to be a regular customer at Albertson’s.

Ted Slanders

Unfortunately, a part of capitalism has to do with making money for the stockholders, therefore, businesses have to answer to them first irregardless of any ethics relating to their employees.

As if making money for stockholders in the healthcare system from a dying person of cancer is morally correct. Fellow Christians, WWJD?

sloweb

Give Capitalism a chance to work. They will either drop prices and become competitive (with or without the union) or they will go broke and sell to someone who IS competitive.
I appreciate Capitalism almost as much as I do Natural Selection. If the GOVT stays out of it, the best survive and prosper.

MaryMalone

They do have a third option: lay off workers.

Having a non-unionized workplace is NOT beneficial to anyone but those at the very highest tiers of our society.

racket

…and everyone who likes cheaper groceries.

sloweb

And those that NEED cheaper groceries.

birddogpatsy

Same feelings from me as everyone else has stated, so I have a new motto for them….. “HELLO HAGGEN, GOOD-BYE WALLET!” Los Osos now has my favorite stores 10 min away straight down LOVR, 99 Cent Store and Grocery Outlet right next to each other, Costco, and TJ’s. I feel bad what Haggen has forced upon their employees with cut hours and layoffs, all in the name of greed.