The League of Women Voters of Oakland is co-sponsoring a public forum for candidates running for the City Council, District 4. This forum is scheduled for Thursday, September 16, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Fruitvale Presbyterian Church, 2735 MacArthur Blvd. Any questions about the format of this forum can be directed to the League of Women Voters of Oakland representative Mary Weinstein: 510-238-9240 or firstname.lastname@example.org
I like Chip Johnson, and there’s a reason for that. He doesn’t kowtow to anyone, including Oakland’s politicians. He says it like it is, whether it’s the popular opinion or not. Today, I enjoyed his column about bloggers. I bounced over to the blog Chip identified as one of Oakland’s best. It’s called “A Better Oakland.” The blog’s author, VSmoothe, writes, “Blogs like this will always be supplementary sources for a small, self-selecting audience that desires far more detail that the average person.” I like VSmoothe. I’ve added her to the links on the right over there. Chip likes her too. He says she “has flair, style and consistency, and that draws steady traffic to the site.”
Speaking of sites, Farmer Joe’s online has been updated. Check it out. I could brag on it, but you might as well click on over and get the full effect.
If you’re still in a surfing mood, Oakland Magazine has posted their monthly online copy. Their hardcopies have not quite hit the stands. March’s issue has an article entitled “Oakland’s All-New SuperMarkets.” It’s a good read and the concluding quotes are from our Diana Tam, Mrs. Farmer Joe.
Jean’s Address to the Community
Jean Quan’s electronic newsletter dated October 6, 2007, said
”FARMER JOES MEDIATION: As reported in the local media our office, Mayor Dellums, Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, and Congresswoman Barbara Lee are working jointly to bring both sides together in the Farmer Joe’s dispute. The management and union have never met face to face for direct discussion. To establish a cooling off period, we asked the United Food and Commercial Workers to call off their boycott; they ended picketing 2 weeks ago. We now expect to meet with both sides this week — a small but important step we should all encourage.”
The local media carried this story in both the Contra Costa Times and the Oakland Tribune on 9/21/07. It talks about the “confrontational approach” the UCFW local 5 took towards trying to unionize Farmer Joe’s. The union’s picketing and harassment forced Farmer Joe’s to file a charge against Local 5 with the NLRB, case #32-CP-490, on 7/19/07. The NLRB found the case had merit and filed a complaint against UFCW local 5. A federal hearing was scheduled for October 10, 2007 against the union for unfair labor practices. On September 10, 2007, the NLRB reported UFCW local 5 executed an informal settlement agreement to cease all picketing and publicly acknowledge they would refrain from illegal activity. Then on September 19, UFCW local 5 picketed in front of the store despite their settlement agreement. The NLRB is currently deciding how to proceed, considering the union’s latest bad faith demonstration.The MacArthur Metro’s lead story this month “Update at Union Activity at Farmer Joe’s,” said
“Misinformation on this dispute abounds and continues to be propagated. To be clear, the issue is not whether to unionize. It is also not about an unwillingness to sit down and work out the differences. The primary point of contention between Farmer Joe’s and the Union, one that has persisted since the opening of the second store, is about how to formally survey the employees’ views on representation.
On September 14, 2007 Mayor Dellums wrote a letter to Ron J. Lind, UFCW Local 5 and the Tams of Farmer Joe’s. In that letter, he wrote,
“As Public Officials we (Mayor Dellums, Congress Member Barbara Lee, State Assembly Member Sandre Swanson, Councilmember Jean Quan) all stand firmly in favor of small local business enterprise and are keenly aware that such enterprises contribute greatly to the development of Oakland’s unique neighborhoods. At the same time, we are also in support of the rights of workers to freely organize.”
The Tams petitioned the NLRB to conduct a vote to determine if in fact the employees wanted union representation. The request was dismissed August 3, 2007, citing “there is no evidence that it (the UFCW) has ever demanded that the Employer (Farmer Joe’s) recognize it (the UFCW) as the majority representative of its employees.” The MacArthur Metro elaborated,
”For the purposes of collective bargaining, an employee representative must be designated for an NLRB vote to be held. The UFCW persists with their request for a card check to determine if Local 5 represents a majority of the employees. The Tams maintain the card check violates their employees’ personal privacy rights and will not turn over the polling process to the UFCW.”
It is noteworthy that the UFCW’s latest bad faith demonstration took place after their receipt of this letter from our public officials requesting a “cooling off period be established.”
These are the vacant stores in the Dimond District within a one-block radius of the Farmer Joe’s on Fruitvale Avenue. It’s a sad state of affairs in Oakland. 10 million dollars a year are lost in tax revenue from shoppers going to other cities to spend their disposable income. My burg reminds me of a ghost town at times. The taggers spray paint these abandoned buildings on a regular basis. When the Payless Shoes pulled out, I called the corporate office and begged them to stay. They replied it was not feasible. They said they were losing too much money. When Blockbuster Video packed up, they told me too many people in my neighborhood stole.
This store used to be a vacated boarded up hole-in-the-wall for 7 years before Diana and Joe Tam took it over, renovated and opened up their first Farmer Joe’s on MacArthur Boulevard in the Laurel District. This is now what we neighbors fondly call “The Little Store.” It’s the original Farmer Joe’s grocery Joe and Diana Tam opened 13 years ago. When the Tams first started out, they sold only fruits and vegetables. Diana will laughingly tell you half the store was potatoes. Joe will tell you neighbors approached him and said, “Joe, you have to start selling milk and meat.” For a couple of years, Diana and Joe worked the store by themselves. Joe and Diana did everything from checking to order writing to hauling garbage. Gradually, they began to hire employees to help them. Like today, they remained deeply involved in their business, working side-by-side with their employees, cultivating a family atmosphere and getting to know a lot of their employees’ families. For the first 8 years in the life of The Little Store, the Tams took only 2 days off from work, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Even on those 2 holidays, they drove to The Little Store to insure the electricity was running, and their food was safe and ready for sale the next day.
From looking at this picture, it’s hard to believe or remember what a physical dump and eyesore this building used to be. This is the new Farmer Joe’s on Fruitvale Avenue. Prior to being Farmer Joe’s, it was stalled out Crazy John’s, a failed Albertson’s and a closed Lucky.
Oakland politicians like to give a lot of airtime to renovating the city. They like to talk about helping the neighborhoods and throw around terms like sustainability. Joe and Diana Tam took the terms and did something tangible out of their own pocket. Since they opened their store on Fruitvale Avenue, Peet’s Coffee moved in across the street from the newer Farmer Joe’s. La Farine French Bakery opened a beautiful store also across the street. La Farine renovated the abandoned Payless Shoe Store. The Tams invested in our neighborhoods where others gave up. People call the new Farmer Joe’s an anchor store. Realtors are advertising now by their proximity to “the anchor.”
And then there’s this statement from Ron Lind, President of UFCW Local 5, “Locally, we’re working with elected officials to help protect our union market share by limiting the growth of non-union stores.” That statement makes me wonder what this conflict between the union and Farmer Joe’s is really about. Is it about the rights of the workers? If so, why won’t Local 5 agree to an NLRB secret ballot election to let the workers simply vote whether they want a union or not? Or is the real crux of the matter with the union, the union dues, declining union membership and the fact two other non-union groceries, Whole Foods and Trader Joes, are moving into our immediate area? Is the union picking on the Tams because they thought Farmer Joe’s would be an easy target? And why would the union think that? Because the Tams are first generation Chinese immigrants? Because they are a family owned business?
And what about the politicians Ron Lind claims he is working with so hard to limit the growth of non-union stores? It doesn’t sound much like he is concerned with employees’ rights. It sounds like he and the politicians are at a mutual back scratching party. Is that what this is about? Party down from out of town; screw Oakland. So, what about Oakland’s growth, expansion and helping our little burgs into a better place, whether they are union or not? The politicians need to do the right thing here – the right thing by their constituents, by the people that live here, by the people that support the store. It’s time for the politicians to step up to the plate and do what we elected them to do. They need to support us, the store, our community, and Oakland.
- Oaktoberfest 2012
- 6th Anniversary Celebration
- Oakland Indie Award 2012 Nominee
- Dimond Night Out, Tuesday June 5, 2012
- Oaktoberfest 2011
- 5th Anniversary Celebration
- Darling of the Neighborhood
- Coffee Bar – New Hours
- Great Pumpkin Contest
- Oaktoberfest 2010
- Blessing of the Animals
- District 4, City Council Candidate Forum
- A Better Oakland
- Blogging Bayport Alameda
- Dimond Improvement Association
- Dimond Merchant Association
- Farmer Joe’s Marketplace
- Future Oakland
- Glenview Neighborhood
- La Farine
- Laurel District
- Laurel Village Association
- Loka Yoga
- MacArthur Metro
- Maxwell Park
- Montclair Village
- Paws and Claws
- Best Grocery
- California Healthy Communities Network
- front company
- Local 5
- Local 99
- smear campaign
- T shirt
- union harassment