The young labor union advocate is addressing the small crowd of immigrant neighbors in the carport like a fired-up schoolteacher.

"How many people shop at Bashas'?" he asks in Spanish, following up his question with a call for a boycott of the grocery chain, which includes the Hispanic-oriented Food City supermarkets. "We need to remember César Chávez. We're doing like how he taught us."

It's a comfortable fall evening and the six women and five men sitting on folding chairs and standing in the driveway are dressed casually, some having just gotten off work. Three men are wearing T-shirts with the logo of the same landscaping company. The house in the predominantly Hispanic neighborhood near the Phoenix Children's Hospital is being remodeled. Its new carport has raw wood beams, and portable work lights illuminate the scene.

Giulio Sciorio
Jim McLaughlin, UFCW Local 99 president, says the union can't guarantee better pay or benefits for Bashas' workers.
Jim McLaughlin, UFCW Local 99 president, says the union can't guarantee better pay or benefits for Bashas' workers.
Eddie Basha Jr., chairman and CEO of Bashas', is fighting UFCW claims that his grocery stores disrespect Hispanics.
Giulio Sciorio
Eddie Basha Jr., chairman and CEO of Bashas', is fighting UFCW claims that his grocery stores disrespect Hispanics.
Craig Milum
Giulio Sciorio
Craig Milum
Alvaro Gutierrez, a worker at Milum Textile
Giulio Sciorio
Alvaro Gutierrez, a worker at Milum Textile
Rafeal Parra, an employee of Milum Textile
Giulio Sciorio
Rafeal Parra, an employee of Milum Textile
Talasey Abdt, another worker at Milum Textile
Giulio Sciorio
Talasey Abdt, another worker at Milum Textile
Mike Proulx, president of Bashas', admits the union campaign has hurt business.
Giulio Sciorio
Mike Proulx, president of Bashas', admits the union campaign has hurt business.
Eva Guzman, protesting her former employer, Milum Textile Service.
Giulio Sciorio
Eva Guzman, protesting her former employer, Milum Textile Service.
Bashas' hired high-profile attorney Mike Manning for its defamation suit against the UFCW.
Giulio Sciorio
Bashas' hired high-profile attorney Mike Manning for its defamation suit against the UFCW.
Unite Here! workers demonstrate outside Milum Textile Service in November.
Giulio Sciorio
Unite Here! workers demonstrate outside Milum Textile Service in November.
Giulio Sciorio

"How many of you will commit to stop shopping at Food City?"

About half of the people raise their hands.

"Who are we trying to help?"

"Ourselves. Immigrants. Shoppers," come the answers.

Katy Giglio, the twentysomething spokeswoman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 99, calls the event a "house party" for Hungry For Respect, an anti-Bashas' organization affiliated with the union.

The speaker says he's a student and a former Bashas' employee. He volunteers to talk at such house parties for free and doesn't want to give his name for publication.

"Just use 'Alex,'" he tells New Times. Giglio later confesses that Alex probably chose not to be identified because he's undocumented.

Giglio doesn't seem to find it odd that an illegal immigrant has been chosen as the spokesman for a union that negotiates wages and benefits for U.S. workers.

Alex leads the group in a discussion of Bashas' advertising habits. He notes that the non-union Bashas' chain put ads on the radio show of J.D. Hayworth, a former Republican congressman known for taking a hard line against illegal immigration.

Nestor Castro, who works for Hungry For Respect but is paid by the UFCW, translates: "He's talking about how Bashas' is giving lots of money to J.D. Hayworth. He's basically saying it's paying for racism."

Says one woman, "I've heard the owner of Food City is anti-immigrant."

Says another, "I think Food City supports [Maricopa County Sheriff] Joe Arpaio."

After the meeting, Alex makes it clear he's well aware that the head of Bashas', Eddie Basha Jr., is the grandson of entrepreneurial Lebanese immigrants who started the family company. He also knows Basha Jr. is one of the state's highest-profile Democrats and a supporter of many liberal causes.

But, for now, Alex is happy to let the conversation roll.

A man named Jesus tells the assembly that many of his friends are undocumented, and he feels the U.S. government did nothing for them despite the well-attended 2006 protest marches in Phoenix. But, he says, the union can benefit illegal immigrants by "speaking for the workers."

Alex appears to like what he hears.

"Maybe we can't fight the whole immigration stuff," Alex says. "But we can take care of stuff in our own neighborhood, starting with the products at our local stores."

Several boxes of pizza arrive, and Giglio hands out free slices on disposable plates.

The banter continues as people eat. A couple of the attendees claim to be current Food City employees, and they complain that the company treats its workers poorly. Another topic is the allegedly dirty conditions at Food City stores, and how such conditions symbolize the idea that parent company Bashas' doesn't respect Hispanics.

Alex asks people to spread the word about the boycott and ends the meeting by leading the group in what he called a "unity clap," historically used by farm worker unions. He passes out red, white, and green bumper stickers that encourage Spanish speakers to be "una mas" (one more) who won't shop at Food City.

In the fall, Hungry For Respect hosted many similar house parties in the Valley, sometimes two an evening. Giglio says the organization is made up of current and former Bashas' employees, other grocery store workers, community members, and union officials. Its members have been bad-mouthing Food City and Bashas' since the union formed the group last spring.

In fact, the group is indistinguishable from the UFCW itself. And the union is clearly trying to punish the chain for staying union-free. Bashas' has about 14,000 employees, and almost none pay union dues. (The exception: a few employees at stores bought by the Bashas' chain who have remained under UFCW representation.)

To the UFCW, the Bashas' chain represents a formidable challenge, but one with an immense potential reward. Slamming the company is part of an orchestrated plan to make it clear to top-tier executives at Bashas' that they'd better capitulate to the union.

When New Times asked to speak to Bashas' employees who are friendly to the union, Giglio and another UFCW official, Antonio Sanchez, brought several employees to a dinner at a Denny's restaurant. The employees with the harshest allegations had been working at the Bashas' food distribution center in Chandler for only a few months. They described the center as a "hellhole" — spoiled food everywhere, the place crawling with rats, maggots, and cats.

But two longtime Hispanic employees at the dinner meeting, who had worked at the center for years, said they had never witnessed such filth.

Tolentino Lazaro, a 64-year-old janitor, said he used to see cats in the building occasionally, but not anymore. The place can get dirty, he admitted, but he said he never saw rats.

Lazaro's said his problem was that he didn't like how Bashas' treated him after he was injured on the job. He said the company paid him less because he was on light duty for a few months.

When Lazaro was finished telling his story to New Times, Sanchez fished a $5 bill out of his wallet and started to hand it to Lazaro.

"No, no!" Giglio told Sanchez. "You're not supposed to pay him in front of the reporter."

Chagrined, Sanchez slipped the bill back into his billfold.


The UFCW's aggressive stance against Bashas' isn't an isolated effort. Across the United States, labor organizations that have suffered huge member losses for decades have launched robust campaigns to increase their ranks.

Right after World War II, about a third of U.S. workers claimed membership in a union. But union ranks have dwindled over the decades, with most members being lost to automation, changes in labor laws, jobs moving overseas, and more employment options.

The downward trend accelerated in the 1980s and '90s and continues today. Membership seemed to level off nationally in 2005 after falling to just 12.5 percent of the workplace. Then it dropped again in 2006, to 12 percent.

Unions are desperate to infuse themselves with new blood. Two campaigns in Arizona exemplify the struggle: the one against Bashas' and another against Milum Textile Service in downtown Phoenix, part of an effort by Unite Here! to unionize the state's laundry shops, hotels, and restaurants.

At the heart of both conflicts is the unions' goal of forcing management into labor agreements without giving employees the chance to vote in a secret-ballot election. Businesses that won't comply are made to suffer under what's called a "corporate campaign" — that is, a barrage of negative publicity. According to the targeted companies, union tactics have included obvious distortions, outright lies, and publicity stunts aimed at third-party patsies who buy services or products from them.

The unions figure if they can sully a business enough, its managers will let unions do what they want. The strategy is the principal tactic of a new coalition of unions designed to reverse the membership slide nationally. Three years ago, seven unions broke away from the venerable AFL-CIO to form the Change to Win coalition: the UFCW, Unite Here!, United Farm Workers, Service Employees International, Teamsters, Laborers and Carpenters.

Union membership is relatively low in Arizona, but climbing. It grew from 6.1 percent of workers in 2005 to 7.6 percent in 2006. Unions see Arizona as fertile ground, and unionizing the Bashas' chain is one of Change to Win's top goals.

Bashas' and Milum have fought back, leading to labor complaints investigated by the National Labor Relations Board. The crux of the complaints is that the companies have unfairly discouraged workers from unionizing.

The union fight has been a public-relations nightmare for both companies, but also for the unions. The most serious accusations made by the unions — that Bashas' and Milum allow filthy and hazardous conditions and are disrespectful to employees and customers — remain unproven.

In light of the unions' stated goals, their allegations should be questioned, just as voters might question the promises of politicians, says Amy Hillman, chair of the Management Department at Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business.

"These union campaigns can be very effective if there is an employer that needs to clean up his act," Hillman says. "But that 'if' is a big one, and if that isn't something that's readily apparent to the community, then the union does risk losing its credibility in these fights."

The UFCW's attack on Bashas' is "transparent," Hillman says. For one thing, the 75-year-old Arizona company has invested money on Indian reservations and in disenfranchised neighborhoods, she says, negating the idea that Bashas' is callous toward minorities.

Even the UFCW acknowledges that Bashas' pays its workers slightly more, on the average, than the unionized chains of Safeway or Fry's — and that's without taking union dues into account.

"Despite their best efforts to make this look like a corporate bad-guy situation, they lack the credibility to really make that argument," Hillman says of UFCW operatives.

The union stands to gain millions of dollars by organizing Bashas' employees, though it guarantees them nothing in return except "a voice, dignity, and respect," says UFCW Local 99 President Jim McLaughlin.

Local 99 dues now average between $27.65 and $47.88 a month, depending on a worker's position. Even with the lower dues, if Bashas' 14,000 employees unionized, the UFCW could collect $4.6 million a year. Local 99 took in about $7.5 million in dues last year, so roping in Bashas' would be a major coup.

One ardent supporter of unions, Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, says the UFCW's "harsh" campaign may have gone too far.

"I think it's gotten too personal on Eddie and the Bashas' family," says Grijalva, who represents Tucson and parts of southern Arizona. "I understand the principle behind the efforts, but the tactics are debatable."


Officials at Bashas' and Milum Textile say they want secret-ballot elections overseen by the National Labor Relations Board to decide whether their workers are unionized. If more than half of their employees vote to unionize, the companies would have to work with respective unions to set wages, benefits, and workplace rules for affiliated employees.

The unions have a different plan. They want to do an end-run around such elections, which long have been the usual route to organizing workers. They want the matter decided through what's known as the "card-check" system.

Though polls show that most Americans approve of unions, workers reject them in ballot elections most of the time. The reasons are many, but union officials believe a big one is that the NLRB became soft in the 1980s, allowing companies more latitude to propagandize against labor organizations.

Under the card-check system, union advocates gather workers' signatures on union-approval cards over time. If they eventually get more than half of a company's workers to sign up, the union can legally represent the firm's employees without an election — as long as the employer agrees to acknowledge the card-check system.

Neither Bashas' nor Milum will acknowledge the system.

Company officials claim card-check will tip the balance too much in favor of the unions. Under card-check, union officials know who hasn't signed up and can apply pressure. Just as unions claim companies intimidate workers before an election, critics of the card-check system claim unions intimidate workers into signing cards.

The labor-relations board agrees that elections are the best method, says Nancy Martinez, the NLRB's Phoenix spokeswoman.

But card-check could be on its way to becoming the law of the land.

As part of the new organizing push, Change to Win, the AFL-CIO and other unions lobbied nationally for a new law, the Employee Free Choice Act, that would make card-check the dominant method of unionizing.

Also known as the card-check bill, the act would force employers to recognize unions that obtained a majority of workers' signatures, eliminating the need for a ballot election. The bill passed the House last summer but failed to find enough votes in the Senate. There are predictions that it will resurface after the November election.

Tim Miller, a representative of the Web site www.unionfacts.com, says the card-check bill is "nothing but a power grab." The proposed law, he says, is the unions' payback for making large donations to Democrats who took control of the House and Senate in the 2006 elections.

All of Arizona's Democratic U.S. representatives voted for it.

Grijalva, whose 2006 campaign benefited greatly from union money, says support of the card-check bill isn't as much payback as it is "trying to rectify a very tough situation."

The barriers to a successful union election are steep, and going to a card-check system would make sure employees could "start the process" of unionization, he says.

The UFCW is pushing for card-check at Bashas' because it doesn't have another option: When it determined that Bashas' employees were poised to reject UFCW representation in an election scheduled for 2002, the union withdrew its petition for the vote.

"I think there was intimidation, and it [would have been] an unfair election," says Local 99 president McLaughlin. "My feeling is the card-check process is probably the most democratic you can possibly have. You're voting with your signature."

Now, the focus is on getting Bashas' to agree to the method. Or else.

A former UFCW leader, the late Joe Crump, heralded the new strategy in an essay he wrote in 1992 for the Labor Research Review.

"Organizing is war," he wrote. "[It] means putting enough pressure on employers — costing them enough time, energy, and money — to either eliminate them or get them to surrender to the union."

His "definition of successful organizing" is the UFCW pressure campaign that put a Michigan grocery chain, Family Foods, out of business in the late '80s.


Hundreds of cans of baby formula stand stacked in loose pyramids in a back office of the UFCW Local 99 headquarters at 2401 North Central Avenue. Katy Giglio, the union's spokeswoman, claims they're the 683 cans of expired formula bought at 55 Food City and Bashas' stores last summer by teams of "union workers, community members, and Bashas' employees."

The cans represent the single-most damning attack on Bashas' yet by the UFCW. Union officials claim the cans are evidence that Bashas' doesn't care about its employees, who are too overworked to deal with problems like expired food, or its customers.

Local 99 — which represents workers at most of the major grocery chains in Arizona: Fry's, Safeway, and Albertson's — has been trying to unionize Bashas' for years. The union ramped up efforts after Bashas' bought the original Food City store in 1994 and used the name brand to create a new line of stores for Hispanic immigrants. When Bashas' began buying formerly unionized grocery stores that were closing down and turning them into Food City stores, the UFCW lobbied the NLRB to allow it to represent all Food City workers. A judge ruled against the union.

Still stinging from the unsuccessful attempt to stage a labor-affirming election in 2002, the union began its corporate campaign against the 168-store chain in earnest four years later, seeking donations for the cause and distributing fliers picturing Eddie Basha Jr. that alleged the grocer was mistreating his workers.

Then came the neighborhood meetings, the allegations of disrespecting Hispanics and the supposed disparity in cleanliness between the Mexican-flavored Food City stores and Bashas' other markets. The union made its biggest splash in July with the claim that Bashas' routinely sold out-of-date baby formula. A slick brochure put out by the union following an announcement of the "discovery" of the old formula pictures a woman and infant and warns: "If infants do not receive the proper nutrition . . . they may develop potentially serious developmental problems."

In response to the corporate campaign, Bashas' slapped the UFCW and its most strident advocates with a defamation lawsuit last month. At a press conference inside a south Phoenix Food City store, Bashas' President Mike Proulx lashed out at the union in front of TV news cameras, his voice shaking with anger at times.

"Certainly, the negative stories, the lies, intimidation, insinuation, and innuendo that the customers are hearing are very, very damaging to our business," Proulx said. "The loss of our sales is measurable — it's measurable every day."

Proulx accused the union of using the unsavory tactics to convince Bashas' management that it had better abandon the ballot-election requirement and accept employee signatures as a route to unionization.

"This campaign is to put pressure on management to either make us give up our members' legal right to vote or to shut us down," he said. "And we're not going to let them close our business that has been in Arizona for 75 years."

In its lawsuit, Bashas' says the UFCW planted the baby food.

However, Phoenix attorney Mike Manning, hired by the chain, admits there's no proof of that. Although Bashas' says the union hasn't given it access to the cans, the UFCW held a press conference in July at which at least some of the cans were presented for inspection. Bashas' officials didn't show up to check out the containers.

In publicizing the formula buys, Giglio told the Arizona Capitol Times in July that they were only about protecting children, "not about union organizing."

Yet the Hungry For Respect group, which Giglio claims includes non-union members interested solely in helping consumers, made no attempt to inspect union-represented Fry's or Safeway grocery stores. In addition to the formula purchases occurring at the same time as the union campaign against Bashas', New Times discovered that the entire operation was led, staffed, and funded by the UFCW.

In a list provided by Giglio of people who helped with the formula buys, the majority were UFCW employees. Of the remaining Valley residents listed, either they or their organizations receive funding — in some cases, substantial funding — from the UFCW.

Another curiosity is that the UFCW pulled the bad-baby-formula plan from an old playbook.

In the early 1990s, the UFCW claimed the Food Lion grocery chain — then the target of a UFCW card-check campaign — was selling expired baby formula. Government workers who inspected the Food Lion chain in the southeastern United States for bad products simply couldn't believe the union's claim — since their own investigations showed Food Lion had fewer problems than its competitors.

As in the Food Lion case, government inspections in Arizona have had vastly different results from the union's, casting suspicion on the UFCW's claim.

Karen Sell, director of the federally funded Women, Infants and Children program, says random inspections of about 120 Arizona stores in 2006 and 2007 uncovered 11 cans of expired formula on the shelves of nine different establishments. But unlike Hungry For Respect, Sell's inspectors checked more than just one grocery chain. She wouldn't reveal where the formula was found, but she says the nine stores belonged to at least two separate grocery companies.

About the same time as the Bashas' formula buys, the California Healthy Communities Network held a press conference in San Francisco to announce it had found cartloads of expired products at Farmer Joe's stores. Newspapers and television news stations interviewed a private investigator named Dan Rush who had helped lead the sting on Farmer Joe's. It turns out that Rush is a former political director for the UFCW and the Network is a front group for the union.

Similarly, the people advocating on behalf of the UFCW Local 99 have a far cozier relationship with the union than has been reported in the daily press.

When Giglio was asked to name the unaffiliated "community members," as the union has called them, who helped with the baby-formula project, Giglio suggested that New Times meet with the Reverend Trina Zelle of Interfaith Worker Justice and Hector Yturralde and Alfredo Gutierrez of Somos America.

New Times determined that there was nothing unbiased about these three on the topic of Bashas' and the union. Each either benefits personally from union funding or represents an organization that does.


Trina Zelle, a Presbyterian minister in her late 40s, says she doesn't think it was unfair for her and other Hungry For Respect members to go into Bashas' stores exclusively to buy formula for the UFCW's campaign. She argues that the project was about keeping babies safe, not about helping the UFCW attack Bashas'.

The reason the group ignored union-represented chains like Fry's or Safeway in its effort to keep infants from harm, she contended, is that "you can only allocate your resources so much."

Pressed further on the issue, Zelle says "they" were receiving complaints about only Bashas' baby formula, so there was no need to check other stores. She wouldn't disclose who "they" were.

Zelle's group, Interfaith Worker Justice, a national organization, receives lots of money from unions, including the UFCW. Government reports show that it got at least $338,000 in union contributions in the past three years. By Zelle's own admission, union money makes up about 30 percent of her paycheck.

She denies that the union dollars influenced her decision to investigate the single grocery chain, Bashas', targeted by the union. But when it came to questions about the UFCW's involvement in the project, Zelle's answers descended into a series of memory lapses. Zelle says she can't recall when she first heard of the idea to buy baby formula, when or who invited her to do it, who instructed her in how to make the buys, or where the preparatory meeting took place.

Asked repeatedly who led the project, Zelle says, "I'm trying to figure out exactly what you're asking. I know I'm being frustrating."

Zelle says she spent the entire day of the formula purchases with a teammate. But she says she can't remember his name, whether he was connected to the union or where the man got the money to pay for the formula.

Zelle was only slightly more specific during the July 11 press conference about the expired formula, in which she acted as one of the project's front people. The man she worked with was a "community member" and she had "no idea" whether he was reimbursed for the buys, she told the news media at the time.

The minister repeatedly tells New Times that she has all the answers about the people she worked with on the project written down in a notebook at home. New Times asks to see the book.

"I'm not interested in proving to you I have notes," Zelle responds.

Giglio eventually tells New Times that Zelle's partner was indeed a union worker, and that the UFCW paid for all of the formula.

Like Zell's Interfaith Worker Justice, Hector Yturralde's Somos America also receives union funding, Giglio says, though she refused to divulge how much. Somos America is, in fact, a coalition of groups that includes the UFCW, and the union allows Somos to use its facilities and other resources.

Yturralde's activist partner in Somos, former state Senator Alfredo Gutierrez — who has been at the forefront of union allegations that Bashas' is anti-Hispanic — has an even closer financial relationship with the UFCW. His consulting firm contracts with the union.

One of the union's key claims is that the chain's Food City stores have far more health violations than its Bashas' markets. After the union presented a report on the subject, titled "Is There a Double Standard?," to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in November, Gutierrez aired the findings two weeks later on his Spanish-language radio show on Radio Campesina 88.3 FM.

"There were 51 percent more major violations at Food City in 2005 than in Bashas'. . . and Food City is focused on our community, right?" Gutierrez said on the show. "We are talking about feathers, birds, mice; dead mice, live mice, and flies" at the Food City stores.

But the numbers are misleading, especially if other grocery store chains are considered — which the union didn't do. As the Bashas' lawsuit against the union points out, many Food City stores dinged by inspectors actually do better, violation-wise, than unionized competitors in the same Hispanic neighborhoods.

Inspection data on grocery stores by the county can be found on its Web site, www.maricopa.gov/envsvc, after clicking, oddly, on "restaurant ratings." The numbers paint a much more complicated picture concerning grocery store violations than the union wants the public to believe.

Illuminating are the most recent cleanliness awards handed out by the county, which reviews stores about every three months. If an inspector finds everything in order, the store and its various departments — such as the meat market, bakery and fast-food eatery — get a gold award. Major violations found usually merit a silver award or no award.

Using the award system, New Times found that Food City stores, indeed, get fewer gold ratings and more major violations than those carrying the Bashas' name.

But Safeway stores, as a whole, rated about the same as Food City markets. Using Gutierrez's logic, it could be argued that if Bashas' disrespects Hispanics, Safeway — and by extension the UFCW, which represents Safeway workers — are dissing everyone they serve.

Combine the Food City and Bashas' stores and you get percentages similar to the whole Fry's chain. In other words, overall, Fry's has about the same number of violations per store as Bashas'.

Certain poorly performing Fry's stores bring down the average — and many of those are in Hispanic neighborhoods. The Valley's three Ranch Market stores, often held up by critics of Food City as a cleaner alternative for Hispanic shoppers, fare no better on violations than some of the worst Food City violators.

It's not that Gutierrez is incorrect about certain problems at Food City stores. He just conveniently fails to mention the same conditions that crop up at unionized chains.

Another piece of evidence that Bashas' disrespects Hispanics, according to Gutierrez and union advocates, is that the chain advertises on 550 AM (KFYI) during J.D. Hayworth's show.

But spokeswomen from Safeway and Kroger, which owns Fry's, confirmed that their chains advertise plenty on two AM radio stations known for their conservative commentary, KTAR and KFYI. Sure, Hayworth talks tough about illegal immigrants, but not more so than most of the radio personalities on either station.

Despite the weak link between advertising and bigotry, Gutierrez wrote in an e-mail to Univision in late October that the Spanish-language TV network should stop dealing with Food City "or any other company that advocates our deportation and the stripping of our children's constitutional rights."

He apparently was referring to the harsh rhetoric espoused by Hayworth or other right-wing commentators concerning a proposal to take citizenship away from the children of illegal immigrants. But no Bashas' or Food City official has ever been quoted publicly saying anything like that.

In fact, Gutierrez tells New Times he has no idea whether other grocery chains advertise on J.D. Hayworth's show, or on other shows with equally conservative opinions. Nor does he care.

"It's very possible that I bought an auto part from a store that advertises there," Gutierrez says. "I'm an advocate. I don't pretend to be an objective voice."

But Gutierrez and other UFCW advocates want the public to think they're objective, to a certain extent. They want people to believe it's credible that Bashas' is somehow worse than other grocery chains, that the assertion is based on reasonably fair research, and that a union would make things better.

In Gutierrez's case, however, he's more than just biased — he's getting paid big bucks by the UFCW, a fact he admits readily to New Times. How much is he getting?

"I don't want to answer that because I'm getting sued," he says, referring to his status as a defendant, along with Trina Zelle and Hector Yturralde, in Bashas' defamation claim against the union.

But even though Gutierrez won't fess up, it's right there in the suit that the UFCW pays his consulting firm, Tequida and Gutierrez, a whopping $20,000 a month.

Questioned about the ethics of such a relationship with the union, Gutierrez says he sees no problem with getting paid by the UFCW and then blasting its target, Bashas', on his radio program.


The Milum Textile building at Sixth Avenue and Van Buren hasn't changed much since it was built in 1935. Neither has the work done there, says owner Craig Milum: Washables get dumped in 400-pound capacity machines, dried and then moved to steamroller-like pressers.

The Milum building looks old inside, and not in any retro way. The worst of the soiled stuff handled there includes hospital sheets and pillowcases smeared with bodily fluids and sometimes hiding bloody needles. Anyone assigned to work directly with the washables has to be vaccinated against hepatitis B within 10 days. But following the start-up of a union campaign targeting Milum Textile in 2006, a visit by state inspectors revealed that some workers might not have been getting the shots right away.

The inspection also turned up other violations, like a dirty conveyor for soiled materials, and no routine cleaning schedule for the machine. Milum was fined $2,500. The company was found guilty of a few similar violations in 2002.

To Unite Here!, which began organizing the state's laundry plants in earnest in 2006, the violations at Milum were pure gold. It would soon become part of Unite Here!'s campaign to force Craig Milum to accept a card-check system aimed at unionizing his plant.

The first step was to find the perfect Milum customer. Soon, the union discovered a restaurant chain that certainly wouldn't want its customers to find out it was employing a firm that had paid fines for unsanitary conditions.

The business was Fox Restaurant Concepts, which operates Olive & Ivy restaurant on East Camelback Road.

Brian Callaci, a regional Unite Here! representative based in Phoenix, created fliers about the union's campaign to organize Milum employees. The focus was on the seemingly unrelated Olive & Ivy. The fliers featured cartoon foxes on the front and back. They were titled: "Where is Sam Fox hiding?" (Fox owns Fox Restaurant Concepts.) Inside the fliers were some "facts about Milum" — including that Milum Textile washes the tablecloths and napkins used by Fox Restaurant Concepts (including four other restaurants in the Phoenix area), that the state found Milum in "serious violation of multiple blood-borne pathogens standards," and that "serious" means a possibility of death or injury.

The insinuation was that Milum washed hospital and restaurant linens together. The union never presented evidence of that, and even if the materials had been washed together (Milum says they weren't), they would have been safe and sterilized when done, a state inspector later determined.

The union paid people to stand on the sidewalk near Olive & Ivy handing out the leaflets. Sam Fox told New Times that the union's claims were outrageous, but they must have had an effect on him. He started sending his tablecloths and napkins to another firm recently.

For Unite Here!, that's evidence its campaign is working. The union had used disinformation to separate Milum Textile from one of its biggest clients.

Unite Here! also targeted another Milum client, Oaxaca Restaurants, which has two locations in Phoenix. To attempt to force Oaxaca to choose another laundry service, the union handed out a flier to customers reprinting the news of the restaurant's recent health-code violation, which included beans and chicken that weren't cooked well enough.

Union officials went after Oaxaca "just because [Craig Milum] wouldn't do what they wanted him to — it's just dirty politics," maintains Mia Verdugo, whose family owns Oaxaca. Unlike Fox, the owners of Oaxaca are sticking with Milum.

As in the case of Bashas', the question in the fight to organize Milum workers isn't so much about whether the company is worse than all of its competitors; it's about whether a business owner can reject union pressure and continue to operate in peace.

To Unite Here! local organizer Callaci, the answer is a resounding no. The union is on a roll. It has managed to capture half of the state's laundry workers in two years.

Unite Here! is an amalgamation, formed in 2004, of the former UNITE textile workers union (of "Look For the Union Label" fame) and HERE, the union for restaurant and hotel workers. It's one of the only unions that saw increases in members in the past two years. But it has paid for its aggressiveness: Last year, the union was slapped with a $17.2 million penalty after a court found it libeled the Sutter Health hospital chain in California.

Callaci makes no apologies for the leaflets distributed outside Oaxaca and Olive & Ivy, saying there was no libel in them. Incredibly, he denies that the Fox flier was misleading, claiming that restaurant customers shouldn't have drawn a connection between tablecloths and blood-borne illness.

Milum Textile is far from perfect. But that could probably be said of most laundry shops. A review of state OSHA records showed Milum drew more violation notices than all of his competitors in the last two years. Then again, he received the most scrutiny and complaints because of the union campaign.

Craig Milum inherited the business from his father, who taught his son how to stave off unions after a few successful battles of his own. He admits he's made a few changes because of Unite Here!'s campaign, but he doesn't want the union coming in and telling him how to run his company. He says his wages are competitive and, in some cases, his workers make more than their unionized counterparts.

Milum is angry at the union, which may have played right into its hands. Unite Here! claims Milum disciplined employees for wearing union buttons and for conducting other union activity during work hours.

Milum says he wants his workers to vote up or down on the union in a secret-ballot election.

As with Bashas', the campaign at Milum is focused on avoiding an election and forcing the company to accept unionization based on signatures solicited by the union. Callaci says he's just trying to make life better for Milum employees like Evangelina Guzman, a single mother of five who claims Milum fired her for supporting the union.

At a meeting with New Times, Guzman and two current Milum workers complain that the company often did not allow workers to reach full-time status, telling them to stop work after about 36 hours so they wouldn't qualify for health benefits.

But it turned out the union wasn't treating Guzman much better.

Guzman, who says she's a legal immigrant from Mexico, began working for the union a few months ago. The union pay is good, she says, but she gets to work only about 36 hours a week.

She adds that she gets no health benefits — all her kids are on the state's indigent healthcare plan, AHCCCS, just as when she was at Milum.

Asked about the blatant double standard, Callaci admits it might seem hypocritical.

A few weeks later, Callaci phones New Times to say, in a sheepish voice, the union is now covering Guzman and her kids under its healthcare plan.

Show Pages
 
My Voice Nation Help
20 comments
Fast Freddie
Fast Freddie

Legislation needs to be passed that limits informational picketing to no more than sixty days . The UFCW should be thoroughly investigated by the FBI for misuse of union funds and corruption . Their actions are becoming a national problem .

madmilker
madmilker

People in America need to realize jus what got America in this shape��cheap� yes so-call cheap items from a foreign land.

quote*Wal-Mart firmly believes in local procurement. We recognize that by purchasing quality products, we can generate more job opportunities, support local manufacturing and boost economic development. Over 95% of the merchandise in our stores in China is sourced locally. We have established partnerships with nearly 20,000 suppliers in China. *end quote!

Now! if there be 182 country�s making items for the world to buy and they have only 5% of the pie in China�duh! This company makes the nice people of China support their currency(yuan) by keeping it in their country working for the people there�. but with the �yuan� going up in value and the US dollar going down�all the foreign items that the American consumer buys thinking it is cheap has went up in price.

People�its all about the currency and to keep a currency strong you got to keep it floating around the country you live in so it can work for you. For the past 12 years all them US dollars are being shipped overseas to a foreign bank and with the American worker not making anything for the foreigner to buy the �we the people� have to turn to the �second� largest employer in America(Uncle Sam) to sell �we the people� debt in order to get all them dollars back!

50 years ago a foreigner would had given their left nut for a US dollar or a Hershey�s chocolate bar and today the same foreigner has got Uncle Sam and the American consumer by both all the while Hershey is moving the chocolate factory to Mexico. Wake up! America and think �MADE IN AMERICA.�

madmilker
madmilker

People in America need to realize jus what got America in this shape��cheap� yes so-call cheap items from a foreign land.

quote*Wal-Mart firmly believes in local procurement. We recognize that by purchasing quality products, we can generate more job opportunities, support local manufacturing and boost economic development. Over 95% of the merchandise in our stores in China is sourced locally. We have established partnerships with nearly 20,000 suppliers in China. *end quote!

Now! if there be 182 country�s making items for the world to buy and they have only 5% of the pie in China�duh! This company makes the nice people of China support their currency(yuan) by keeping it in their country working for the people there�. but with the �yuan� going up in value and the US dollar going down�all the foreign items that the American consumer buys thinking it is cheap has went up in price.

People�its all about the currency and to keep a currency strong you got to keep it floating around the country you live in so it can work for you. For the past 12 years all them US dollars are being shipped overseas to a foreign bank and with the American worker not making anything for the foreigner to buy the �we the people� have to turn to the �second� largest employer in America(Uncle Sam) to sell �we the people� debt in order to get all them dollars back!

50 years ago a foreigner would had given their left nut for a US dollar or a Hershey�s chocolate bar and today the same foreigner has got Uncle Sam and the American consumer by both all the while Hershey is moving the chocolate factory to Mexico. Wake up! America and think �MADE IN AMERICA.�

Eloisay
Eloisay

I HATE ufcw with a passion, all they want is money. They do not care about the workers. How can it be that the fail to even provide water for the canvassers that they pay to go and say all these lies while to are making hundreds of thousands each year. They are nothing but a business.

Matt Eugene Hood
Matt Eugene Hood

Dear Sir: The 46 million people who dont have health-care is because of the American corporation who are waging war against the unions. My Union Painters Local 130 was destroyed in 1981 in Freeport, Texas by Dow Chemical and the petrochemical industry who gave special privilege's to non-union contractors, who deliberately violatd the law by over saturation of the labor market with dirt cheap tradesmen who were not up to American standard, whom Dow and friends deliberately with malice towards organized labor since FDR and the Great Depression welcomed Mexican nationals with full knowledge they were from Mexico. In 1981 I went from $15 dollars an hour with full union benefits to $10 dollars an hours to work on a non union job in less than two months unless I left the state to work. I lost 60% of my money and wealth when the illegals were used to destroy the unions. I have lost $500,000 dollars and a retirement package that gave me heath care over a life time. I owe all of this to the illegals who have turned the high paying construction trades in to jobs that pay just a little over minimum wage, whom we have not have a cost of living wage in 15 years thanks to the illegal alien. They have turned Freeport into little Mexico. If I wanted to be surround by Mexican nationals, who can not speak English, I would move to Mexico. I love this nation because it is the Noah's Ark of the world. We have every nation, country, culture's, race and languages on this earth. America is the greatest nation in the world because we are a melting pot of the talent on God's green earth!Because of Mexico we are losing our edge in Gods grace in being a melting pot. Mexico is dumping its toxic waste of its population on my beloved country to absolve itself of its responsibility to take care of its citizens in a clear dereliction of duty to its citizens and the international community. America needs to send Mexicans back to Mexico with a M 16 with a 1,000 rounds so they can vote in Mexico city or voice their dissent with their corrupt government. America should help the 20-30 million illegal Mexicans citizens to overthrow the government of Mexico. American citizenship, unlike that moron who calls himself President Bush, our citizenship is not for sale for any price. Its was a gift to us and it is a gift to those who love this country who will die for this nation who believe in the freedom of our constitution and our Bill of Rights, and the rule of law. America is not an employment hall or office for the third world. If your reason for coming to america is for money then hit the road jack and dont come back no more and go to hell. Illegals aliens is treason in the making! To fly a Mexican flag on American soil is an act of treason. A person should be fined if they fly the Mexican flag or any other flag on American soil. It is the illegal Mexicans, who has made all of those, who work in the petrochemical industry a plantation of sharecroppers where all we have is a pay check; if we don't show up we don't get paid. The Mexicans has brought slavery back to America! They are creating little Mexico's all over America as if they are reclaiming this nation that was never theirs to start with. It belonged to the American Indians. My friends in the Indians nations whom I have worked with do not even want the illegals in this nations. Its not that hard to throw out 20, 30. 0r 40 million illegals. Congress can put a bounty on illegals. The states can rebel against the federal government for their failure to do their duty. The federal government is no longer a competent partner in the illegal alien problem who can not be trusted to keep their word; therefore, they have abdicated there right to govern on the federal level. The federal government has been castrated by people like Bush, who have robbed all the federal agencies of funds and leadership, to force amnesty down our throats for their dereliction of duty, who has made himself a god to rule like a king, who thinks he is above the rule of law. America does not need a king or a President who thinks he is above the law! The day America gets a King is a day we the people go to war. We in America must deport all of the illegals because their word is worthless. We give 20 million illegals amnesty they will demand that their family be allowed to come to America in a never unending cycle of non-refugee styled mexicans who think the Americans are punks because they can not say no to a bunch of ragged mexicans who will cry out racism or Hitler style police who are racist. If we dont say no now this nation will make it possible for this nation to elect a Adolf Hitler styled leader, who will say no with a gun and a boot. He will make all mexicans like the Germans did to the Jew's to leave America who have been here for the last 30 years to leave the United States. Don't count on Mexico to defeat this nation on the battle field. If America does not stop this clear violation of the rule of law by out elected officials, who should be taken out to the public square to be Cained for making our laws mute by our own law makers which is the greatest of sins. If our elected official show no pity for its own people why should we show any pity for them. In Bush;s world of you are with us or against us; it is clear he has chosen to be against the nation, Bush should be considered a traitor!

LETUS
LETUS

FUCK THE UNION.

Kitty Antonik Wakfer
Kitty Antonik Wakfer

Top notch investigative reporting and well written article. Some specific comments below:

"Another topic is the allegedly dirty conditions at Food City stores, and how such conditions symbolize the idea that parent company Bashas' doesn't respect Hispanics." Husband Paul and I have shopped in many Food City's in central Arizona over the past 5 years, mostly the larger one in Casa Grande, and don't find its level of cleanliness unacceptable in any. It's prices for produce are often the very best anywhere and they also carry some products not available anywhere else. Besides, it's the only store with covered parking!! And in the summer that's a real pleasure.

"Across the United States, labor organizations that have suffered huge member losses for decades have launched robust campaigns to increase their ranks...The unions figure if they can sully a business enough, its managers will let unions do what they want. " Definitely. And so what is a few lies to the union management in order to keep their numbers from falling any lower and maybe even gaining a few. This is how the union management want to keep and grow power as they promote paternalism - treating members as children.

"Local 99 dues now average between $27.65 and $47.88 a month, depending on a worker's position. Even with the lower dues, if Bashas' 14,000 employees unionized, the UFCW could collect $4.6 million a year. Local 99 took in about $7.5 million in dues last year, so roping in Bashas' would be a major coup." Just shows how union officials are out to line their pockets and have power - which of course they couldn't have at all if it weren't for many government laws. Unions officials use government enforcers to force the union into an employer and employee relationship.

"Also known as the card-check bill, the act would force employers to recognize unions that obtained a majority of workers' signatures, eliminating the need for a ballot election." Under what pretense did the unions obtain these signatures? Just because a person signed some union card cannot automatically mean that s/he would also vote to have union representation at the place where s/he works.

"But Safeway stores, as a whole, rated [in cleanliness by Maricopa County] about the same as Food City markets. Using Gutierrez's logic, it could be argued that if Bashas' disrespects Hispanics, Safeway � and by extension the UFCW, which represents Safeway workers � are dissing everyone they serve. It's not that Gutierrez is incorrect about certain problems at Food City stores. He just conveniently fails to mention the same conditions that crop up at unionized chains." Excellent demonstration of logic, which is just what the union is avoiding and appears to be discouraging in anyone it seeks as members. A reasoning thinking person would not be easily lead by the nose and would not enable the kind of shenanigans that unions have been pulling.

"Gutierrez and other UFCW advocates want the public to think they're objective, to a certain extent. They want people to believe it's credible that Bashas' is somehow worse than other grocery chains, that the assertion is based on reasonably fair research, and that a union would make things better." Excellent! That is exactly what is being done here and is the pattern of probably every other current union in the US and elsewhere.

I will continue to shop at Food City stores as long as they provide value to me, which they have always done.

-- **Kitty Antonik Wakfer

MoreLife for the rational - http://morelife.org Reality based tools for more life in quantity and qualitySelf-Sovereign Individual Project - http://selfsip.org Self-sovereignty, rational pursuit of optimal lifetime happiness,individual responsibility, social preferencing & social contracting

Michael Preston
Michael Preston

Wow. This is one of the most biased, one-sided articles I have ever read. I hope you're ashamed of yourself, Ray Stern, though I doubt it.

Monica Kopp
Monica Kopp

I think the unions are very unfair. It is obvious that they are playing dirty and really don't care about the people, but the MONEY! Thank you for publishing such an enlightening article. Go Basha and Milum! Hope you guys win!

marta
marta

u know if eddie bashas would stop selling out dated foods green meat people would shop there.

Kiki Dee
Kiki Dee

Food City workers won't write in to complain they were smeared until someone from the UFCW tells them what to say and gives them a free pizza.

ResponsibleWorker
ResponsibleWorker

Screw unions. Filthy, money-grubbing, self-serving communist bastards. Look at what they've done to Detroit. They can all burn in hell. They're a complete waste of money and they suck the lifeblood out of every company they touch. Fuck 'em.

SpeelChekr
SpeelChekr

Damn, Isaac! Get a spell/grammar checker. Thanks for propagating shitty language skills.

Isaac
Isaac

Talk about a smear campaign!! This article is like a smear book. I love it: the union is the self interested greedy bunch- which must be the case cause all those organizers are getting rich off this campaign right, and Eddie Basha- good old Eddie- is a humanitarian, a philanthropist, a saint who cares nothing for himself or his company but to make sure the community is healthy and vibrant. I am sure that he has never cut corners to make a buck! He would never put a shoddy stor in a pour neighborhood , after all his parents were immigrants.Finally, someone put the mean old union in it's place!! Probly didn't even make any add dollars by running this article right- just did it for the cause!! Bravo!!

Paul
Paul

You disclosed everything, but the facts. Why didn't you say that Bashas' lawyer Michael Manning is the same guy who represented the New Times? If you're going to be fair, you should lay all the information out there for us to decide. You trash labor in general, with no clear responses from the company. Come on are we still crying free speech?

jason
jason

It's so simple, these 2 unions, UNITE HERE and UFCW are about one thing, getting money for themselves. They're criminals that use on dirty tactics and try to intimidate small business and even the employees they're claiming to represent! I'm proud of companies like Bashas and Milum for standing up for themselves. This has nothing to do with immigration, working conditions, or pay. Both these businesses hire mostly immigrants, have fair to good working conditions, and both pay above the average! It's all about the union trying to get more money for itself! Free speech is one thing, but demonstrating in front of places and smearing a good company's name should be illegal! This state needs to police UNION activity because it's become the opposite of what unions were suppose to be about years ago (if they ever were good).

Good article,

EmployerReport.com
EmployerReport.com

As an Arizona native, transplanted to the cold, pro-union, socialist-run Northeast, this is an excellent article on exposing the UFCW's smear campaign against a great Arizona company.

One minor correction. Unions currently do win nearly 60% of all National Labor Relations Board-conducted election--even with the so-called obstacles they face. And they have been for the last several year. The union tripe you hear about card-check is just that--tripe. The problem for today's unions is that they don't want any opposition--including from their own workers...

The UFCW, for example, has been proven time and time again to be hypocritical on the issue of secret-ballot elections. They attack companies for not abrogating their employees right to vote, then don't conduct card-check when their own union workers want to unionize.

Last November, for example, the UFCW's own union organizers working out of the unions Washington, DC headquarters, had to file a petition with the NLRB to hold a secret-ballot election (apparently, no card-check was granted to them by their union employer).

http://employerreport.blogspot...

BUT, the story gets worse for the UFCW:

The UFCW is a union that like to portray itself as a friend of the working class, but it's really a union of double standards and hypocrisy.

In 2007, office staff who work at UFCW local 832 went out on strike against their employer�the United Food & Commercial Workers. The workers� strike against the UFCW lasted for five weeks and ended with a four-year wage freeze. Then, according to the Winnipeg Sun:

"[UFCW]Management gloated on its website following the strike, boasting that they got employees to "accept less" in the new deal. Talk about adding salt to the wound."

"The organization even suggested it would start cutting staff and has already fired one worker who was on the picket line -- a move workers say is pure intimidation."

"One good thing that did come from this strike is that we know how to make this(organization) run more efficiently and we've realized we don't need the amount of staff that we have," the president of the [UFCW] said on the website."

On Feb. 28, 2007, UFCW Local 791 bosses in Massachusetts engaged in a mass firing of nearly 40% its own union staff. The surprise firings shocked the union business agents who were fired "at will" with apparently no warning, prompting them to write in a letter to the UFCW membership:

"We are sure that the membership, as well as us, never thought that a �labor organization� would treat its own members (or staff employees) like this. Apparently, the quote �an injustice to one, is an injustice to all� doesn�t apply to �all� of us."

There you have it: UFCW bosses forcing their own employees on strike; UFCW bosses bragging about getting their own workers to accept less; and UFCW bosses firing their own employees for no apparent reason.

Arizonans deserve better than the scum from the UFCW.

Yours in spirit,

EmployerReport.com

Tina
Tina

Seriously, great piece on the union. You said you talked to workers what were their issues?

howard
howard

If they don't like the way they have been treated, go somewhere else. They get treated like that because they are illegal and that is what some companies want. They will put another illegal there if you don't like it. Till at least we stop it all together. Legal or not at all.

 
Loading...