Members of Teamsters Local 630 on Friday plan to hold a rally at the Commerce, California, headquarters of Smart & Final parent Chedraui USA over concerns about job security and pending contract talks.
Los Angeles-based Local 630 said Thursday that Chedraui USA plans to shut two recently unionized Smart & Final distribution centers in Commerce and Riverside, California, and compel workers to reapply for their jobs at a new DC.
“Smart & Final workers plan to march on Chedraui USA’s corporate offices to demand the company guarantee their jobs at fair wages and with a union contract,” Teamsters Local 630 stated.
Chedraui USA/Smart & Final couldn’t immediately be reached by Winsight Grocery Business for comment on the planned union rally.
In a Facebook post on Thursday, Local 630 called on members of Teamsters Joint Council 42—which represents 23 Teamsters locals in Southern California, southern Nevada, Hawaii, Guam and Saipan—to participate in the planned rally.
“Calling all Teamsters! We’re asking all JC 42 Members in SoCal to stand in solidarity and mobilize your brothers and sisters to this action,” Local 630 said in the Facebook posting. “Chedraui USA/Smart & Final is planning to upend the lives of its workers in California by closing two unionized S&F warehouses and forcing longtime employees to reapply for their jobs at a new warehouse. These workers demand their jobs be guaranteed at just wages and with a union contract.”
In May, Chedraui USA unveiled plans to open five new stores—including three Smart & Final and two El Super units—plus remodel 40 locations and build a 1.4 million-square-foot distribution center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. The company noted that the Rancho Cucamonga facility will integrate distribution operations from five smaller warehouses in Southern California. That includes the closing of the Commerce and Riverside DCs, according to Teamsters Local 630.
Chedraui USA had noted that the DC integration will boost its current Southern California distribution and warehouse capacity by 50%. “We’re excited to respond with five new stores in 2023 and the commitment to a new integrated distribution center to help us grow and maintain low prices for our customers, for years to come,” Chedraui USA CEO Carlos Smith said in a statement at the time.
About two weeks after Chedraui’s announcement, 300 associates at Smart & Final’s Riverside DC voted to join Teamsters Local 630. The local had added Smart & Final employees to its membership ranks in February, when more than 300 staff at the grocer’s Commerce DC voted to join the union. In negotiations, Smart & Final associates at the Riverside and Commerce warehouses seek increased job security and wages, more consistent standards, better health care coverage, a path to retirement and stronger safety measures, among other workplace improvements, Teamsters reported.
Teamsters Local 630 and Joint Council 42 have gained support from local lawmakers, including 12 California state senators and assembly members who earlier this month signed a letter to Chedraui USA’s Smith regarding their concerns over the retailer’s latest plans.
“Chedraui USA recently announced plans to close several of its existing distribution centers in Southern California, including the two recently unionized facilities in Riverside and Commerce, and launch a massive, new 1.4 million-square-foot distribution center in Rancho Cucamonga. The workers at the two recently unionized facilities now face the prospect of losing their jobs, further jeopardizing their efforts to secure a fair contract with Chedraui USA, after several months of negotiations have resulted in little to no progress. The duty to bargain in good faith is a core tenet of the National Labor Relations Act,” the California legislators wrote in the Sept. 11 letter.
Smart & Final operates more than 250 Smart & Final Extra! and Smart & Final warehouse-style grocery stores in California, Nevada and Arizona. The Commerce-based chain was acquired by Bodega Latina Corp. (now Chedraui USA), part of Mexican retailer Grupo Comercial Chedraui, in a $620 million deal in 2021.
“As the president and CEO of Chedraui USA, a subsidiary of Mexico-based Grupo Comercial Chedraui, we therefore urge you to appreciate the magnitude of the unique opportunity that lies before you now,” the state lawmakers said to Smith in the letter. “The constituents we have spoken with have expressed great respect for the deep roots that Smart & Final has in their communities, and they take pride in having helped to ensure that the company remained successful after Chedraui USA acquired it in 2021. These workers’ decision to unionize is an extension of the pride they take in their work and an expression of their desire to ensure that the company remains successful, by respecting the rights of workers to share in the benefits of that success.”