MATTHEWS, N.C. — Harris Teeter management told employees they would be better off without joining a union, as the company’s acquisition by the largely unionized Kroger Co. approaches.
In a letter to workers filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Harris Teeter said it does not believe “that an outside third party, like a union, coming between us, is in your best interest.”
The letter was signed by Fred Morganthall, Harris Teeter’s president, and Rodney Antoloch, executive vice president.
“We believe strongly that it is best for you to interact directly with your managers at Harris Teeter who are there to help and support you,” they wrote in the letter. “We always have worked together as a team, without the interference of an outside third party like a union. It is one of the reasons Harris Teeter has been so successful.”
In the letter, they quoted Joseph T. Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, saying, “If Kroger thinks we are going to sit back and let a large portion of their stores operate as non-union, they are in for a rude awakening.”
Hansen made the comments last month at the UFCW Convention in Chicago, a union spokesman told SN.
“He used the example of Harris Teeter and Kroger, but what he was saying was the UFCW is not going to stand idle while companies enjoy mutually beneficial relationships with their workers in some markets, while in others the workers do not enjoy those same benefits,” Marc Goumbri, the UFCW spokesman, told SN.
Read more: Kroger Deal Edged Private Offer: Harris Teeter
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In a conference call discussing the initial merger agreement between the two companies, J. Michael Schlottman, chief financial officer, Kroger Co., indicated that the unionization issue would be left in the hands of Harris Teeter management.
“They have done a great job of exciting their associates every day when they come to work with the package of benefits and pay that they enjoy,” he said. “We will certainly take their guidance — their guidance being the management team of Harris Teeter — on how to maintain that excitement of their associates coming to work the way they always have.”
Most of Kroger’s stores are unionized, a company spokesman told SN. The company could not be reached for further comment.
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