ST. LOUIS -- Price Cutter/Ramey, the 30-unit Springfield, Mo., chain bent on carving a niche in this market, has encountered turbulence -- days after purchasing six Price Chopper superwarehouse stores here.
Local 655 of the United Food and Commercial Workers has set up picket lines and launched a boycott against the firm for firing 300 workers at the acquired stores. The union also has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.
Nick Torpea, president of the local, said that the company refused to interview Local 655 union members for jobs at the stores. Instead, it hired new workers under a contract with the Congress of Independent Unions, he said.
Meanwhile, Price Cutter/
Ramey countered the Local 655 handbills with its own claiming that Schnuck Markets employees (who are members of Local 655) were trying to drive the Price Chopper stores out of business.
Schnuck Markets is the dominant grocer in this area -- with a market share of more than 50%. In a statement, that company said that it was "extremely offended by these false claims."
Ramey officials could not be reached for comment.
As reported, the Springfield company entered this market late in September with the purchase of a 63,000-square-foot Price Chopper from the unit's supplier, Associated Wholesale Grocers, Kansas City, Kan. Six other Price Choppers were purchased recently -- shortly after AWG bought them from Warehouse Foods Inc., a privately held company that has retrenched to a single unit. Several months ago, Warehouse Foods said in a letter to employees that most of its stores would be sold because of a "deteriorating" financial condition. Price Chopper is AWG's franchised superwarehouse store format that has been very successful in the Kansas City market.
Torpea said that pickets were hurriedly dispatched to the stores with the hope of affecting Thanksgiving business.