business news in context, analysis with attitude

Reaction to last week's story that R. Randall Onstead Jr., the just-named president of Safeway-owned Dominick's Finer Foods, will still be seeking the kinds of cost-saving concessions that it was looking for when acrimonious negotiations with the union led to Safeway's decision to sell the company.
Onstead also said that he will respond to union suggests for how costs can be cut, and plans to close between 12 and 20 stores. On the bright side, he said, the company is beginning to reintroduce local products that it believes will bring shoppers back into its stores.

One MNB user wrote:

If Mr. Onstead does what he promises to do, bring back products, listen to people that know the area and market , there might be a chance to rebuild.

On the other hand, proposing the same contract that was full of concessions is not the way to go about it.

Employees from Dominick's have been labeled as selfish and having a "Cadillac Contract" by members of the media but employees here do not receive nearly as much as those from California.

We have deductibles on our healthcare, vision and dental, California doesn't. Our employees are required to work 28 hours a week for family healthcare. California employees only need to average 24. We receive no healthcare after we retire but that is not how it is in California.

There are only 8900 employees here versus the almost 80,000 in California. Most, if not are claims require the employee to fork over money to cover the difference, that too is not the case in California.

With the talk of closing 20 or more stores Dominick's and the average store having 60-80 employees, the number of employees that will be left on the rolls of Dominick's will be greatly reduced.


Sounds like Onstead won't be dealing with a compliant labor force…



Speaking of compliant labor forces, we did a brief commentary last week about the Southern California labor situation in which we suggested that "they ought to lock all these folks in a room with a thousand bottles of water and no access to a bathroom…and tell them they can't come out until they come to a deal."

Now, up front we need to point out that we were joking.

But not everyone got it:

I have real trouble understanding how naive you are. When you make statements like lock them in a room with tons of water and no bathroom leads me to believe you don't get it at all.

First and foremost...you and everyone should understand that is there is only one party controlling this strike and that is the COMPANIES period. Do you believe that the unions called the strike? The companies decided there was to be a strike and they will decide when to end it. The resuming of the talks is just…to show the federal mediator they are not being unreasonable.

The major part of the companies' investment in this thing is already made. The only place they can go from here is up. I firmly believe that in the next couple of weeks the employees will be given (if they haven't already) an opportunity to resign the union and go back to work. The only way this could be stopped is if one of the companies involved feel this would be a bad image for them but I see these companies are in this thick and thin and honestly you should be seeing that as well. These companies know exactly what their plan is. They have different moves for different maneuvers the union made like not picketing Ralphs and as you read Safeway and Albertsons share the benefits of Ralphs increase business so it is all covered.

Never forget the corporate mind is basically brilliant and they plan much better than the union mind. They know their exact cost and if they haven't reached it yet then this thing will continue. The union on the other hand is in a box. Holidays are coming, people don't have pay checks, they will have to start paying for their benefits, and I am sure the picket lines have gone down as how long can 16 year old kids and others keep yelling on a picket line, and more than anything the fund is going down. The sad part is when the union bosses are totally against the wall they will sell the employees out so they can keep their business and fat paychecks. Remember the union cares only about 2 things and they are union dues and administrative fees. If they are broken they have to look for jobs.

Kevin, I do hope this educates you on what is really happening here.


We respect your opinion, though we have trouble accepting the notion that things are as black-and-white as you describe them.

Some people did get the joke, however:

Something tells me that these people might resort to just using the empty bottles as a bathroom.

Of course, this would suggest that all the guys in the room are, in fact, guys…which might explain why there isn’t any progress being made.




On the subject of the possibility that the FDA could make changes in food labeling requirements that would mandate that the nutritional contents of the entire package - just individual servings - be listed, one MNB user wrote:

Come on! The current label gives per serving info. then lists how many servings per container. Do the math.

Would that be New Math or Old Math?

i>MNB user Mike Freese disagreed:

There is certainly some rationale in changing from serving sizes to package sizes. A 20-ounce bottle of Mt. Dew, my kids' soda of choice, indicates 110 calories per serving. Of course, the 20-ounce bottle has 2.5 servings for a total of 275 calories. (By the way, how many people in this country who carry their brains in their pockets can take 2.5 times anything?) And I can guarantee you, none of my kids splits this bottle into servings. They just drink the whole thing. And sadly enough, they drink the larger bottles more often. I can't see where changing to package size would cost the manufacturers anything in this instance but don't know that it would make a bit of difference to my kids if the bottle said it had 500 calories. And so it goes....




In a piece about Williams Sonoma last week, we noted that its improving numbers are interesting because they reflect the nesting instinct that still seems to be alive and well in America. If people are willing to spend more on housewares and homewares that they perceive raise their quality of life, perhaps it is time for supermarkets to take the hint.

One MNB user responded:

You are dead on when you comment about the opportunity Supermarkets have if only they would "join the crowd" that is helping America get back in the kitchen. Williams Sonoma is showing growth; Personal Chefs are starting businesses everywhere; Children are being taught, albeit at a slow pace how to cook; George Foreman reinvented indoor grilling and saved Salton and finally Cooking Magazines are more popular than ever.

There is a large "disconnect" between these positive trends and the lack of recipe, meal planning help at the Supermarket shelves. I do notice some chains like Hannaford, Kash and Karry, Wegman's and a few others putting meal ideas and recipes in the weekly flyers. Why not add signage in front of all the components that literally walks the customer to the products for those recipes with aisle numbers and locations? Better yet sell meal bundles together or at least displayed next to each other?

There are literally thousands of products today that will enable the consumer to be "the hero" with a delicious and nutritious meal in less than thirty minutes. Why do supermarkets and vendors keep this a secret? Let your packaging and signage tell the story and "join the crowd".





We had a piece last Friday about the increased interest being shown by children in cooking, and noted that we've been doing a little cooking with our daughter and even got her a kid's Emerilware Cooking Set.

This prompted several emails. One MNB user wrote:

A hidden benefit of watching Food TV with your kids -- it's a great way to get them to try new things. Last week, one of the shows was making Italian Wedding Soup, and part of the demonstration was making little meatballs. My 4-year-old asked if we could have meatballs -- which we had fun making (yes, they were good, and I now have meatballs in the freezer for several future quick meals - hurrah), and which he downed with gusto, talking all the while about seeing them on the TV. He also asks for various vegetables he's seen, too -- an excellent by-product of watching TV with your kids! Our favourite is Alton Brown -- who teaches as much about the chemistry of cooking as about the recipes -- which can't be a bad thing.

And another MNB user wrote:

The bigger point to your comments about Emerilware is "we're doing some cooking together." Parents and kids together. Nurture it and enjoy it. And take pictures.

They will soon be 16 years old, and doing anything familial will be but a memory.


We know. We have a 17-year-old who is going off to college next year, and there are days he seems barely able to tolerate us.

(Anybody know anything about Columbia College in Chicago? That seems to be his school of choice at the moment…he wants to be a writer/filmmaker/actor…)
KC's View: