Former Times workers still demand fair treatment

News Report
Travis Quezon

As the rain drizzled down on a humid afternoon, former Times Supermarket employees carried banners reading "Unfair to Workers" on Liliha Street. With support from the Hawai'i Teamsters and Allied Workers Local 996, the workers who were laid off earlier this year asked rush-hour traffic commuters, this past Monday, to boycott the 75-year-old supermarket chain in order to send a message to its corporate owners, PAQ Inc., that they were not going to leave without a fair deal.

Nearly a year after Times employees first walked the picket lines in protest of layoffs, medical coverage cuts for employees on long-term medical leave, and a guaranteed 40-hour work week, workers like former deli clerk Janice Nielson are still unemployed.

"We'll keep boycotting until whatever time it takes," said Ms. Nielson, who had worked at Times for nearly four decades. "We'd like to be put back on the table, but I'm not sure how long it's going to take."

The former Times workers argue that layoffs of veteran and unionized employees by PAQ, Inc. last year was the result of putting profit for the employer at the expense of the employees. Following the workers' strike last January, Times eliminated the position of full-time deli clerk. Boycotters said that although the position was eliminated, the newly-named clerks perform the same duties for less pay and benefits.

In 2002, Quinn Supers, Inc., headed by president John Quinn, acquired Times from the Teruya family, who had been running the supermarket chain in Hawai'i since 1949. Quinn Supers, Inc. is a subsidiary of PAQ, Inc., which also operates supermarkets throughout California.

"John Quinn came with the purpose of getting rid of us [unionized employees]," Ms. Nielson said. "This is not 'ohana."

"John Quinn came with the purpose of getting rid of us [unionized employees]," Ms. Nielson said. "This is not 'ohana."

Hawai'i Teamsters vice president Bernard Nunies said Mr. Quinn had not been cooperative in communicating with Times workers and did not meet in person with Teamster president Ron Kozuma who had flown to California to discuss workers' concerns.

Since the strike last year, Mr. Quinn has not changed his position on eliminating the full-time deli clerk position or on rehiring other former employees.

Mr. Quinn did not respond to calls from The Hawai'i Independent.

In October, the National Labor Relations Board dismissed a complaint against Times put forward by the Hawai'i Teamsters and Local 996. The charges included an improper withdrawal of union recognition from Local 996 and objections to what the union considered as unfair to workers, including the manipulation of employee actions and employee intimidation by management.

The focus of supporters now is on getting former Times employees who are still unemployed a place back at the counter.

"We want for [Quinn] to understand he needs to focus on bringing these people back who don't have jobs," Mr. Nunies said. "The union is willing to meet with the owner more than half way."

As the new year begins, former Times employees will continue to reach out to the community for support of its boycott and continue searching for work during difficult economic times.