Union divide: Politicians who oppose Walmart’s anti-union policies recruit two non-union supermarkets to replace Pathmark

Politicians who claim to oppose Walmart because of its non-union policies are courting at least two other non-union supermarkets to replace the soon-to-be-shuttered Nostrand Avenue Pathmark in Sheepshead Bay.

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D–Sheepshead Bay) says he would like to see a Whole Foods at the site between Avenue X and Avenue Y, and both Councilman Lew Fidler (D-Canarsie) and Borough President Markowitz both say Trader Joe’s would make a good fit.

But neither store hires union workers, just like the big-box that the pols pledged to keep out.

“We’d only accept Walmart if they’d end their policy of union-busting,” said Weiner at a Feb. 23 press conference held with Fidler and Markowitz in front of Pathmark.

Like Walmart, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods alleged stances against organized labor have created controversies nationwide. In St. Paul, Minn., for instance, the supermarket union led a summer-long picketing campaign against a Trader Joe’s that opened there in 2009.

And Whole Foods employees have complained that the trendy superstore engaged in union busting: In 2006, National Labor Relations Board inspectors ruled that Whole Foods wrongfully fired two truck drivers for unionizing with the Teamsters, and in 2002, a Whole Foods worker in Wisconsin claimed that the company fired her for encouraging her colleagues to negotiate their contracts.

Weiner and Fidler declined to comment on their choice chains’ business policies, but Markowitz said that he is willing to overlook Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods alleged non-union policies because they pay high wages. According to Fortune Magazine, Trader Joe’s full-time clerks earn about $20 an hour. In 2006, Whole Foods reported its average hourly wage was $15.38. Walmart says its average hourly salary is $13.16.

“[Sheepshead Bay] residents need a place to buy fresh food and I would support Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods or any other supermarket who will pay their workers a good wage,” Markowitz said.

Local union reps say the pols’ position doesn’t sit well with them.

“Anytime a non-union employer comes into the area if effects our good-paying union jobs,” saidJohn T. Niccollai, president of Pathmark’s union, UFCW Local 464A. “We reject them, and may put up picket lines.”

Despite their push for the two non-union markets, the reps haven’t given up hope on landing a superstore that hires organized workers.

The anti-Walmart congregation of Weiner, Fidler, Markowitz and Councilman Mike Nelson (D–Sheepshead Bay) also wrote to union shops like Stop & Shop, White Rose, D’Agostino’s, and Key Food about moving into the Pathmark site.

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