SuperValu workers want facility to stay open
HUNTINGTON -- Union-represented workers plan to fight for their jobs following an announcement this week that the SuperValu distribution center in Milton will close in April.
Teamsters Local 505 met Saturday afternoon in Huntington to discuss their plans to convince the company to keep the local distribution center open.
Ken Hall, union president, said the 60-member union was scheduled to start negotiations with SuperValu on Monday, the day they told employees that the distribution center would be closing.
"They admitted that it was a very quick decision that was made," Hall said. "That's why we believe it was not a well-thought-out decision. We think this company should have taken into consideration their employees and they obviously didn't."
Hall said Saturday that union members will immediately begin circulating a petition across the state that urges the company to keep operating its Milton facility. If necessary, Hall said they will also be contacting the facility's customers.
"If they move out of West Virginia, I suspect that a lot of their loyal customers will not be doing business with them," Hall said. "There's too much of these out-of-state companies wanting to make profits in West Virginia then leave nothing behind. This is one of those cases."
Hall said the union has also contacted elected state officials in order to gain their support.
"We're not just going to roll over and accept this," he said. "We're going to fight to keep these good-paying jobs with benefits in West Virginia."
Hall said the average union-represented employee is 57 years old and the average length of employment is more than 30 years.
Barry Dailey, 55, of Ona, is a prime example of that.
He said he was devastated to learn he would be losing a job he has held since he was 18.
"My major concern is being able to find a job at 55 years old with no education other than driving a truck," he said. "It's been a very good job over the years. (I)always had good insurance and retirement and that means a lot. I was hoping in seven more years, when I reached 62, I would be able to retire from there."
The Milton facility employs nearly 100 workers, 60 of whom are union-represented.
SuperValu spokesman Luke Friedrich said the Milton center will be consolidated with the company's Stanton/Pittsburgh distribution center.
A company statement released from SuperValu's headquarters in Eden Prairie, Minn., on Monday said the decision was made to "maximize efficiency" in the chain's distribution department.
The Milton center was a distribution point that supplied grocery chains throughout the region, most of which were not Super-Valu-owned stores.
The company's distribution business is separate from its own grocery operations, Friedrich said. The company release said no SuperValu stores -- which include Save-A-Lot, Cub, Farm Fresh, Hornbacher's, Shop 'N Save and Shoppers -- will be affected by the change in distribution operations.
The consolidation decision comes at a time when SuperValu is refining its business model.
The company recently sold five of its banner retail grocery chains, and installed a new chairman of its board of directors on Monday.
The company has seen a bump in its stock after a financial report indicated SuperValu earned a net profit of $31 million for the third quarter. The report was available on SuperValu's website.
A company statement also said SuperValu expects to generate revenues of $17 billion annually under its trimmer operation model.
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