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Still awaiting the recovery

Grocery chain Albertsons, a division of SuperValu Inc., will lay off up to 2,500 workers at its supermarkets in Southern California and Nevada in an effort to slash costs amid slumping sales, the firm announced Wednesday.

The layoffs will begin June 17 – Father’s Day – and affect a “small number” of employees at every store in the two states, said company spokeswoman Lilia Rodriguez.

The chain operates 213 supermarkets in California and 34 in Nevada. So assuming the layoffs are evenly distributed, that will mean about 10 layoffs per store; some 340 in Nevada.

The grocery chain has been trying to reduce costs and shake up its operations in order to bump up sales and customer traffic, Ms. Rodriguez said. In February, the company laid off some employees at its support center in Fullerton.

“We needed to make a change – that was very clear,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “We have not kept pace with the changing needs of our guests. So these immediate steps will help us remove costs from the business.”

Albertsons frequently offers a wider variety of brands than its direct competitors, including Smith’s. A recent search for a pound of mozzarella labeled “no RBGH” (recombinant bovine growth hormone) located one only at Albertsons.

Nor is the chain the most expensive in the market – that honor is surely retained by niche market Whole Foods, with its emphasis on natural and organic products.

But as the Great Recession lingers, even those lucky workers who still draw paychecks have no choice but to cut costs, and unionized Albertsons feels the pinch.

Albertsons is discussing its layoffs with the United Food and Commercial Workers union in order to meet all its collective bargaining agreements, Ms. Rodriguez said.

Chain link fences surround once-thriving restaurants. Empty lots that were once major car dealerships bake in the sun. After 3½ years, isn’t it time the Obama administration sent someone out to inspect the ruins, acknowledging that “stimulus” handouts to build any number of green energy boondoggles have not amounted to a recipe for recovery?

Isn’t it time to send to Washington a few folks who have actually run small and medium-sized private-sector businesses other than law firms? People who understand the disastrous impact of costly tax hikes and regulatory regimes?

Instead, during a Friday news conference to promote a “jobs” bill that would boost government hiring, President Obama emphatically declared, “The private sector is doing just fine.” This just one day after the president gave a speech in recession-ravaged Las Vegas, the biggest city in the state with the country’s highest unemployment rate.

Really, Mr. President? We’re “just fine”?

Supermarkets shorten their hours. Fewer employees are available. Of these 340 laid-off grocery workers, some will leave the state. Some will find other, part-time work. Others will linger on unemployment. But none is likely to be buying new cars or homes or furniture hereabouts.

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