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The East Bay Business Times reports that Safeway executives – including CEO Steve Burd and other top managers – are going on the offensive in the San Francisco Bay Area, working the public relations angle to convince the local media and, by extension, the public, that it is justified in seeking salary and benefits concessions from unionized employees.

"We are eager to tell our story and communicate with the public," Safeway spokesman Brian Dowling told the paper. "The unions certainly aren't bashful about doing it. We feel that at this time, it's in the interest of everyone that we communicate our message early and often." And, he added, "We don't want to be in the position of negotiating through the media, but at the same time, we want to make our positions clear. We want the public to know our position on the health care issue and why it is so important."

The contract between unionized employees and Safeway and other major supermarket chains ran out on September 11, but the two sides agreed to keep talking without a strike or lockout – at least for the time being.

The chains are looking for the same kinds of concessions that they won after a four month strike/lockout in Southern California – a two-tiered salary and benefits package that will pay new employees less than existing employees – but Safeway clearly is hoping to do so without taking the kind of public flogging that it got down south.
KC's View:
We have this old-fashioned feeling that the best way to win the image wars is to deliver a unique, compelling, differentiated and relevant shopping experience to customers.