TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The United Food and Commercial Workers Union last week launched a campaign against Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., in an effort to empower women employees to seek redress for perceived sexual discrimination in promotions and pay scales.
The UFCW has also reportedly asked the AFL-CIO for sanctions to initiate an official consumer boycott against Publix, a nonunion employer, because of the chain's allegedly discriminatory hiring and pay policies toward women and minorities, SN has learned.
The UFCW effort, called the Women's Action Campaign for Equal Opportunity, is intended to provide female employees at Publix with specific information on workers' rights under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
UFCW will provide information for filing charges with EEOC or referrals to law firms that handle equal opportunity cases, said Patricia Scarcelli, director of UFCW's Women's Network.
The union has been part of an informal consumer boycott against Publix for more than a year in collaboration with the Florida Consumer's Federation and Concerned Consumers of Savannah.
Speaking at a press conference here last week, Scarcelli said that less than 2% of Publix managers are women and that women and minorities comprise less than 9% of all store and department managers.
Publix, in a statement, called the press conference "a blatant attempt -- orchestrated by the union -- to exploit the news media for its own self-serving agenda.
"Here's the truth: Women and minorities make up more than 30% of Publix management, and that percentage grows as Publix rapidly expands.
"Publix has prospered as an employee-owned, union-free company for 64 years. A large part of that success can be attributed to our dedicated, union-free work force."
Citing lawsuits in California in which Lucky Stores paid out $60 million and Albertson's paid $23 million following charges of sex discrimination, Scarcelli said, "While neither company admits any wrongdoing, both had to pay the price for past employment practices and to change their future practices to ensure that women have the opportunities for full-time work with fair pay and advancement.
"The Women's Action Campaign will let the women of Publix know they have the same rights and options for legal action as workers at Lucky and Albertson's."
Scarcelli said at the press conference that a study of 402 Publix stores conducted in 1993 by the Florida Consumer's Federation showed "that women and minorities are scarcely visible among the ranks of store managers."
Among the findings she cited:
Hispanics account for less than 4% of Publix' store managers, blacks for less than 3% and women for less than 2%.
Only four Publix stores have women managers and only eight have women as first assistant managers, while only three locations have African-American managers and nine have blacks as first assistant managers.
Among department heads, Publix has 359 women deli managers -- a lower-paying position, she noted; 60 women bakery managers, four women produce managers and three women meat managers. The chain has 18 black deli managers, 19 black bakery managers, 19 black produce managers and three black meat managers.