LOS ANGELES (FNS) -- Picketing at two Whole Foods Market stores here by a local union, now in its fifth month, has reduced sales by 15%, the union estimated.
United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1442 here began its protest in November, when Whole Foods acquired two Westward Ho stores, and displaced 85 union workers. The company, which is not unionized, reopened the stores with nonunion staffs.
Mike Straeter, president of Local 1442, said the union doesn't plan to call off the picketing any time soon.
Five to six picketers stand in front of the stores five days a week. In order to keep the lines staffed, the union pays professional picketers $7.25 an hour, Straeter said.
Although the picketers carry signs asking shoppers not to support the nonunion stores, Straeter said the union is not trying to organize store employees.
"The purpose of the boycott picket line is to impede their sales," Straeter said.
The picketing is working, Straeter said. He estimates sales have dropped at least 15% at the stores, based on decreased traffic in the parking lots and cars turning away from the store when they see the picketers.
Whole Foods officials could not be reached for comment. However, officials have acknowledged sales decreases in the local media.
Whole Foods runs its stores on a team-format. Each store employs from 65 to 230 people, divided into teams to oversee different aspects of the store, from what items to order to how much to charge.
Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods has 75 stores in 17 states and is aggressively growing, with plans to open and acquire 16 stores this year.
Whole Foods first-quarter sales were $408 million, a 30% increase from last year's first-quarter sales of $313 million. Same-store sales were up 14% for the quarter.
Whole Foods was recently named one of the 100 Best Companies to Work for in America by Fortune magazine.
In other news, Whole Foods said last week it will raise $100 million through a zero-coupon convertible debt offering, with the proceeds going toward repayment of debt and capital expenditures.