UFCW Boycotts Grocer for Following Law on E-Verify

The Justice for Mercados Campaign, a campaign led by California’s United Food and Commercial Workers, have called for a boycott of Mi Pueblo, a grocery store based in San Jose. The store’s crime: signing up for a federal program- E-Verify – to comply with immigration law:

The company said on Friday that it joined E-Verify after federal immigration officials launched an audit of its existing workers’ immigration status in August, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

The chain’s founder, Juvenal Chavez, himself a former undocumented immigrant, has briefed employees over the past week, the Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend.

While E-Verify is a voluntary program, it does offer Mi Pueblo the ability to take matters into their own hands, rather than have federal investigators audit their employees and create potential problems. Of course, by taking the action themselves rather than having the auditors take care of it (presumably at higher expense and with more stress to the situation), they brought the attention and ire of the UFCW. The union’s solution: unionize their workforce, of course!

…[T]he Justice for Mercados Campaign are led by the UFCW, which is trying to organize Mi Pueblo’s more than 3,000 workers, said union spokesman Eriberto Fernandez.

In a statement, the campaign said it is trying to determine if in fact Mi Pueblo is being audited. It says Mi Pueblo could stop any audit by informing federal officials that the company is in the midst of a labor dispute reflected by the ongoing organizing effort by the union.

The UFCW is clearly using the federal audit as an excuse to put more pressure on the local chain to unionize- all while casting overtones of discrimination and distrust on the employer.

However, this puts the UFCW in an awkward position with their own members, as they’re attacking a company for complying with federal immigration law. Federal programs like E-Verify protect workers from federal audits like the one Mi Pueblo went through, and ensure that fair employment standards are upheld for all workers.

Fair employment standards should be something the UFCW supports, not attacks opportunistically to try to get a foothold in ongoing investigations. Their boycott not only hurts workers, but shows that the UFCW does not care to uphold the law except when it’s convenient.

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