Westcor Weenies

This raucous raven demands: Is Westcor taking a cue from the Jim Crow South, or is io's closing really about a lame-o lease dispute?

Hell, Def Jam records founder Russell Simmons even showed up there once. Freakin' Madonna had her after-party there, for Chrissakes!

If the weenies at Westcor had two cents of gray matter among them, they'd let io stick around for as long as possible so the Biltmore'd have a touch of color and cool, rather than just being one more bland, high-end mall where white-breads go to get their grub on or buy perfumed soap. Where's Jarrett "Kid Sharpton" Maupin when you need him? Maybe an old-fashioned civil rights march is in order.

Basha Da Union

Fred Harper

Unless you're livin' like former Unabomber Ted Kaczynski — in a shack somewhere sans boob tube — you've probably seen these Bashas' TV commercials featuring grocery store scion Eddie Basha talking about how his employees (from clerk to janitor) are all members of one big happy Bashas' family. Heh, as long as they don't pull none of that there union organizin', eh, Eddie?

Basha's a longtime Dem who ran for AZ Gov in '94 as his party's nominee and lost to the soon-to-be-run-out-on-a-rail Republican Fife Symington. But this self-declared "bleeding heart capitalist" doesn't cotton to organized labor, whether it's at his yupper-class AJ's Fine Foods, or at his ordinary Bashas' or Food City stores. Sure, the dood's a liberal when it comes to pimpin' Proposition 203, the 80-cents-a-pack ciggy tax hike that's supposed to fund early childhood education initiatives. But if Sally Field's Norma Rae were to show up at a Bashas' tomorrow, she might end up in handcuffs.

Don't believe this cheeky chirper? Last May, a manager at AJ's in Uptown Plaza actually performed a "citizen's arrest" on two labor organizers attempting to meet with workers there. Apparently, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union has been trying to sink its talons into Eddie Basha's stores, and he's determined to keep 'em clear of his aisles, even when they have a right to be there.

Back in '93, Bashas' bought out a handful of groceries owned by a different chain — one that was unionized. In 2001, when Bashas' again expanded, it did so by purchasing the assets of a union grocer. UFCW's Local 99 asserts it still represents these workers — about 600 out of Bashas' total of 14,000 employees.

Bashas' refuses to meet with the union, refuses to recognize it, and claims that, when it purchased the two smaller chains, it didn't transfer employees — it rehired them as non-union. So last June, when Bashas' announced a major change to its employees' health benefits, it didn't consult the UFCW.

Enter the National Labor Relations Board. Acting on a complaint from the union, the federal agency did a preliminary investigation, and scheduled the case for a February hearing, where the NLRB will act as prosecutor. David Kelly, a supervising attorney with the NLRB, tweeted that the feds found "reasonable cause" that Bashas' had violated the law.

Bashas' flack Rob Johnson insists Bashas' has done nothing wrong. Not a single employee in the chain is getting a payroll deduction for union membership, Johnson squawked. Remember that commercial where Eddie chirps: "There are no employees at Bashas'!"? They're all just family.

Peeped Johnson, "Our people are happy here. They have nothing to be gained by bringing an intermediary in."

Gee, ain't that what Southerners said about slaves before the Civil War?

Last summer, Bashas' hired on former Valley news babe Mary Jo West to handle PR on the prob. It was West, y'all will recall, who managed to get the Catholic diocese back on track after Bishop Thomas O'Brien's unfortunate Indian-killin' incident.

Even with West's assistance, some of Eddie's pals were running for cover before the NLRB found his union boil worth lancing. Sources tell this tweeter that, last summer, now-Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Giffords dropped Basha as an honorary campaign chair in exchange for endorsements from various labor groups.

If Eddie Basha's fight with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union continues, his political clout may be worth as much as Monty Python's dead parrot. And all because he can't keep his troubles within Bashas' big ol' happy family.

Scaredy-Cat Joe

Could it be that the toughest dad-gum lawman in the nation was quiverin' in his wingtips, all 'cause New Times' print edition sent him a Christmas card using the address of his Fountain Hills nest ("Joe Strikes Back," December 21, 2006)?

Locally, Fox 10 news was the only news org to cover the Xmas card cover — brought on by Joe Arpaio's seeking a felony indictment of this publication for revealing the sheriff's address in a 2004 column investigating his real estate deals. Our point was that he hides details of his commercial properties, when his home address is all over the Internet. A state law allows lawmen to redact their home addresses from public records, but his isn't, while his commercial stuff is kept secret.

When Fox 10 reporter Bruce Dunbar asked Sheriff Alzheimer's about New Times' front-page Xmas card response, Joe was all bluster, grumbling, "There is a law, and I am not going to surrender. I am going to pursue this and not give up."

Sure, Joe, there's a law, all right. And you're the one misusing it to hide your real estate transactions. As we keep saying, anybody who can Google can find your home address. No problem!

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