DALLAS -- Fleming here told SN it has a preliminary agreement to buy three Philadelphia-area stores, which had been operating under the Shop 'n Save banner, from Supervalu, Minneapolis.
The units are part of the 19-store Laneco group, Easton, Pa., which Supervalu closed late last month as part what it said was a companywide move to focus on markets with a strong potential for growth.
Also last week, Judge Jacob P. Hart, a federal arbitrator, ruled that the union contract at the Shop 'n Save stores had a valid successor's clause.
The ruling declares that Fleming, or any company that bought the stores from the wholesaler, would have to offer jobs to all the people covered by the union contract and offer them pay and seniority under the terms of that contract.
However, Hart also ruled that the union-negotiated contracts at the 16 other Laneco group stores did not have a valid successor's clause.
As previously reported, Giant Food Stores, Carlisle, Pa., an Ahold operating company, has reached a preliminary agreement to buy some of the Laneco stores in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley.
In response to an SN question, a Fleming spokesman emphasized the preliminary nature of its agreement with Supervalu. "It is nothing final," he said.
He also explained that the company would only be buying the stores to sell them again as soon as possible. "If we were to buy any of the stores," he said, "they would be owned and operated by independent supermarket companies, not Fleming."
Clay Bowman, president, United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1360, which represents employees at one of the three Shop 'n Saves, applauded Hart's arbitration ruling. "This win for the workers is significant and substantial."
Wendell Young 3rd, president, UFCW Local 1776, which represents workers at the other 18 Laneco group stores, also voiced support for Hart's ruling on the Shop 'n Save contract, but said he was disappointed by the judge's ruling that the other contract lacked a valid successor's clause.
"This is a terrible example of how property rights mean so much more than human rights in this country," Young said. "The leases on the buildings are held sacred, while the company decides to simply ignore the contract securing the people's jobs."
A Supervalu spokesman told SN Hart's ruling "affirmed our belief" that 16 stores did not have a successor's clause in their contract. As for.the judge's ruling that the three Shop 'n Save stores did have such a clause, the spokesman said the company was "reviewing our legal options."