Thursday, November 02, 2006

Union Busting at Bristol Farms - Westfield San Francisco Center

My parents used to live in Southern California, in a part of Orange County that is far from gourmet grocery stores. It was very difficult to find any decent organic markets. Our closest option was Bristol Farms, about half an hour down the freeway, in Long Beach. It seemed like a shop for housewives who wanted to buy organic chicken at the same place they could pick up naff kitchen decorations. It was a good place to buy Amish-made cheese, but it was nothing like Rainbow Grocery, or Andronicos in San Francisco. The prices were double those at the local Stater Bros, so I simply assumed the workers had good grocery union jobs.

When Bristol Farms opened a new Northern California flagship in the basement of the newly remodeled San Francisco Center, I went to check it out. On opening day of the new mall, a few picketers held signs warning potential shoppers that Bristol Farms was a non-union shop. I stayed away from Bristol Farms that day, but many others simply ignored the picketers and crowded in, grabbing the ready made meals at the deli counter, eating freshly made crepes and gobbling up the nuts and chocolates. The irony did not escape me that while I was "virtuously" staying away from the evil union-buster, the stores I visited probably paid their employees the same, or less than Bristol Farms. Perhaps we expect that from retail, but not from grocery stores?

I went back a week later and went in the grocery store. I didn't buy anything, but I have to admit that the store was much nicer the Bristol Farms in Long Beach that we used to call the "posh Albertsons."

Well stocked shelves held a nice selection of grocery shelf staples, from Bob's Big Boy dressing to organic brownie mixes. Variety takes priority over quantity of any given item.

Pretty freezer cases stored high-end frozen goods.

The large candy section featured locally made chocolates and a nut counter: Think Sears in the 70s at many times the price.

Toiletries included designer and organic beauty products and baby staples galore.

The baked goods looked lush. I'm, at the moment, still taking the high ground and didn't taste any, but they looked marvelous.

While they don't sell locally raised, cruelty-free eggs, they do sell the New Zealand equivalent with the no beak clipping symbol on the side.

The picketers are still there, but not too many people are paying attention. Perhaps the union should recruit that shrill voiced lass who stood outside the Grand Hyatt during the hotel strike screaming, "Shame on you to cross that picket line. Shame on you!" People would pay attention then.

845 Market St - Suite 010
San Francisco, CA 94103
Westfield San Francisco Centre
Bart Level

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