Food Market brings news, talk and insight into the food business, from farms to supermarkets to restaurants. Reporters Mike Hughlett and Tom Meersman delve into the work of Minnesota’s food companies and issues such as food safety and labeling.

Rainbow deal is a good scenario for grocery union

Posted by: Mike Hughlett Updated: May 7, 2014 - 2:50 PM

Cub Foods and Rainbow Foods are the biggest Twin Cities supermarket chains represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). So, it's a good thing for the UFCW  that the buyers of 18 Rainbow stores are affiliated with Cub or are otherwise union shops.

"This is a great move for our members," said Don Seaquist, head of UFCW Local 1189, which represents about 700 Rainbow workers in east metro stores. UFCW Local 653 represents about 2,000 Rainbow employees in the west metro.

Supervalu, owner of Cub Foods, is leading a consortium of buyers that will pick up 18 Rainbow Foods stores for $65 million, plus inventory. Ten of those Rainbows will become Cub Foods outlets while two will come under the Byerly's chain, which is owned by Lund Food Holdings and is also unionized.

The remaining 6 stores will retain the Rainbow name. But two will be operated by Supervalu, one by Lunds and the other 3 by franchisees of Cub Foods. UFCW leaders said they expect all to remain unionized.

Rainbow's 9 other Twin Cities stores are still on the sales block. If they are not sold, they will be closed. Matt Utecht, head of Local 653, said that while it's sad to see those nine stores in limbo, the Rainbow deal otherwise is a "best case scenario."

The union need only look to Chicago to see a much worse scenario. Last year, Safeway announced that it would simply shut down 72 of its Dominick's stores in the Chicago area, and look for buyers later. Dominick's was one of Chicagoland's largest grocery chains and a UFCW stronghold.

While some former Dominick's have been sold to traditional union grocers, the chain's demise has been a big blow to the union.

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