Attempting to cater to a consumer preference for jumbo supermarkets, Safeway Stores Inc. said Wednesday that it is closing some of its smaller, less profitable stores in Orange and Los Angeles counties and building larger "super stores."
On July 6, one store in Santa Ana and another in Bellflower were closed. This weekend, two other stores, in Huntington Beach and Cerritos, will be shut down. Another, unidentified Orange County store is expected to be closed later this year.
To replace them, the company said, it is building a 40,000-square-foot store with a deli section, bakery and pharmacy at 1st Street and Harbor Boulevard in Santa Ana, and plans to start construction within a few months on another large store at Brookhurst Street and Katella Avenue in Garden Grove. The company also said it may turn its Laguna Beach market into a "super store," and it is considering several other sites in Orange County.
As a result of the closing of the older stores, the company said, 61 full-time Safeway employees have been shifted to part-time status. All of them work in the geographic jurisdiction of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 324, which includes Orange County and adjacent portions of Los Angeles County.
Layoffs and Transfers
Approximately 14 other employees will be laid off or transferred to lower-paying positions, John Sperry, the local's president, said.
Sperry said Local 324 has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, protesting that Safeway, the nation's largest supermarket chain, initiated the layoffs without first informing the union. He said the union learned of the changes from angry employees.
The union was on the verge of seeking a court order against Safeway on Monday, Sperry said, when Safeway agreed to provide it with information about the employee cutbacks.
Sperry said he sees no similarity between Safeway's actions and the recent move by Ralphs Grocery Co. to reduce its overhead by replacing some senior employees with lower-paid apprentices and reclassifying senior employees in lower-paying job categories.
But Sperry said the union will carefully monitor the process to be certain that Safeway respects employee seniority and does not violate any other facets of its labor contract.
Felicia del Campo, at Safeway's corporate headquarters in Oakland, said Safeway, along with the rest of the supermarket industry, has been following a trend to ever-larger stores.