Shoppers’ parent company and the union representing Shoppers workers have reached an agreement on severance for employees affected by recent store closures, the union announced last week.
Six Shoppers in the Washington D.C. and Baltimore areas have closed in the last couple months, including the one in Franconia and the one in Potomac Yard. Thirteen other Shoppers have been sold, and Shoppers’ parent company United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) plans to “divest” itself of all other Shoppers stores by July.
United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 Shoppers said Thursday’s agreement allows laid off workers to either transfer to another Shoppers or accept a severance package that includes:
Separation pay commensurate with years of service
Holidays and vacation time paid out
Four months of continuing health care coverage
UFCW Local 400 President Mark Federici said the agreement showed importance of unions in protecting workers during situations like the Shoppers’ closings.
“When this company closed retailers elsewhere in the country, the employees were left out in the cold with nothing,” Federici said. “Thankfully, we were able to intervene in this case and ensure our members would be compensated through this transition.”
UNFI did not release a statement regarding the agreement.
UNFI acquired Shoppers in 2018 when it purchased Shoppers’ former parent company, SuperValu. UNFI plans to sell or close the rest of its Shoppers by the end of fiscal 2020 (June 30), according to the company’s last quarterly report, which was released December 31.
“Marketing efforts continue for remaining stores not sold/closed,” the report stated.
There has been no official announcement regarding the fate of the Hybla Valley and Lorton Shoppers stores.
The Franconia Shoppers closing date was not disclosed by UNFI even after it was revealed in December that the shopping center had applied for permits to divide up the space into three different spaces for future businesses. UFCW Local 400 said official word did not come down until early January.
In last week’s statement, Federici echoed recent criticism from the union about UNFI’s actions since acquiring Shoppers.
“For more than a year, we have been ignored by this company for simply asking for more information,” Federici said. “It wasn’t until after UNFI had already publicly announced the first round of store closures that the company was willing to sit down with us to determine how our hardworking members would be compensated through this transition.”
Meanwhile the Franconia Shoppers in the Festival at Manchester Lakes shopping center has already closed — weeks ahead of a February 16 closing date announced earlier this month. On Saturday the doors were locked and it appeared that ownership had begun the process of selling off equipment inside the store.
It’s unclear why the location closed early, but a union representative said locations sometimes close early if inventory is exhausted faster than expected.