Brown & Cole’s CEO Breaks From The Pack

May 14, 2004

By George Anderson

Craig Cole, chief executive officer of the Brown & Cole grocery chain, isn’t looking to join with Albertsons, Kroger and Safeway in playing hardball with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) in the ongoing labor negotiations taking place in Washington State, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

“We just don’t have the stomach to be at war with our own employees,” he told the state Senate Democratic Caucus yesterday at a hearing in Seattle.

One week before the final bargaining session between the supermarkets and the UFCW takes place, Mr. Cole doesn’t see the value in repeating what occurred in Southern California where the parties were stuck in the longest strike/lockout in U.S. grocery store history.

At the bottom of the current impasse, which has been seen in other negotiations around the country, is the chain’s concern about Wal-Mart’s growing market share and the union’s desire to protect the pay scales and medical benefits of its members.

Trying to match Wal-Mart’s employee practices is “a race to the bottom”, according to Mr. Cole.

“I just can’t see solving it by trying to do it completely on the backs of my employees,” he said.

Moderator’s Comment: Do you agree with Craig Cole’s approach to the labor negotiations taking place in Washington

The grocery industry probably needs more people like Craig Cole and Jack Brown. Unfortunately, people of this caliber appear in short supply.

Back in 2001, it should be noted, Brown & Cole negotiated in step with the other chains.

In the recent negotiations, however, the chain has yet to sign a “me-too” agreement locking it in with the agreements made by the other supermarkets.

George Anderson – Moderator

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