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    Coalition Asks for Tesco's Promises in Writing

    Southern California community groups join to ensure wages, benefits and environmental pledges are a reality.

    LOS ANGELES -- The opening of Tesco's first Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market store in the Western U.S. is still months away, yet another community organization has rallied against the company, asking the company to put in writing its previously announced assurances of decent pay and benefits and a proactive concern for the environment, the Los Angeles Times reported.

    The Alliance for Healthy and Responsible Grocery Stores, a coalition of 25 community organizations based in Southern California, called on the retailer yesterday to sign a "community benefits agreement" that would bind the retailer to its claims of paying Southern California workers above the minimum wage, offering health benefits and being environmentally responsible when it launches its chain this fall, the report stated.

    In a letter to Tim Mason, chief executive of the company's U.S. operations, the organization stated it was concerned about "Tesco's record for living up to its commitments," and proposed creating a legally binding agreement that puts the retailer's "promises into writing," the LA Times reported, citing the letter.

    Specifically, the contract would commit the stores to pay livable wages, provide access to affordable healthcare, hire people who live near the stores and guarantee its workers the right to join unions, Greg Good, spokesman for Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, one of the organizers of the coalition, told the paper.

    In addition, the coalition wants Tesco to open more stores in underserved communities, operate green buildings and reduce traffic and pollution from its distribution network.

    Fresh & Easy executives did not return the newspaper’s calls seeking comment on the proposal. However, Mason previously announced its entry-level positions at Fresh & Easy would start at $10 an hour in California, and include a quarterly bonus of as much as 10 percent, the report stated. Also, all jobs will require at least 20 hours per week, the report stated.

    Further, Mason also previously announced its U.S. stores were designed to use less electricity through the placement of windows; improved airflow in refrigeration units; energy efficient lighting; and recycled or reused shipping materials.

    The idea of a legal agreement to ensure a company lives up to its promises is not new to the region. Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) signed an agreement during the planning for LA Live, a $2.5 billion sports, residential and entertainment district in downtown Los Angeles, according to the report.

    "Using a broad community coalition was an efficient way for us to communicate and identify the community priorities," Martha Saucedo, AEG's vice president of community affairs, told the paper. "It was an organized manner to do this."

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