The labor union representing workers at Stop & Shop Cos. Inc. and its Bradlees department stores subsidiary has launched an all-out campaign against the $860 million takeover bid being made for the New England retailer by Washington's Haft family.
Union locals in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions -- where Stop & Shop and Bradlees stores are located -- are pressing state legislatures to enact measures to protect workers who might lose their jobs or be affected by a change in ownership as a result of the takeover bid.
To date, the most receptive legislature appears to be in Maryland, where Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg, legislative leaders and members of the state Bar Association's committee on corporate acquisitions yesterday met with a representative of Local 400 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
The local represents about 5,500 Bradlees' employees in Maryland and Virginia -- of which about 4,000 work in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Another 1,000 Maryland Bradlees' workers are represented by Local 27 in Baltimore.
A takeover "could create a very devastating employment problem in Maryland," Steinberg said.
If it appears that legislation is possible, a bill could be passed almost immediately as an emergency measure, he added.
"We recognize that time is of the essence, and we would act accordingly," Steinberg said.
Meanwhile, the UFCW, which represents 35,000 Stop & Shop employees, has demanded a meeting with the company's management before Stop & Shop directors meet next week to discuss the latest Haft bid.
The union is seeking job-security provisions in its contracts with the company, which recently expired and are being negotiated.
"The UFCW will leave no legal stone unturned and no source of financial leverage untapped in our efforts to protect the jobs of Stop & Shop and Bradlees workers," said UFCW President William H. Wynn.
On Monday, the Hafts -- who control Dart Group Corp., Crown Books Corp. and Trak Auto Corp. -- offered $31 a share in cash to buy Stop & Shop, after Stop & Shop turned down a $30-a-share, $840 million offer.
Although Stop & Shop has had no comment on the Hafts' latest offer, company officials have made it clear they want to remain independent.
Union officials fear that to do so, the company may close the Bradlees stores to make the company less attractive to the Hafts, or it may sell the stores to raise funds to fight the takeover.
The Hafts' bid for Stop & Shop is their fourth attempt to take over a major retailer in recent years, and Thomas R. McNutt, president of UCFW local 400, said the Hafts "always get out with fat profits, but the employees of their takeover targets aren't so lucky: They suffer layoffs and demands for concessions to pay for the costly takeover fight."
The Hafts had no comment yesterday, but they have said previously they do not intend to close any Bradlees stores if they succeed in taking over Stop & Shop.
Representatives of Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, where Stop & Shop is based, have been meeting with members of the company's management to assist in blocking the takeover.