WSJ: Safeway, Supervalu Training Unions to Battle Wal-Mart


It's an unsurprising story, but the Wall Street Journal digs into the financing of the anti-Wal-Mart movement and finds that rival supermarkets—like Supervalu, Safeway, and Ahold NV—have been stoking and underwriting community outrage:

Robert Brownson long believed that his proposed development here, with its 200,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter, was being held hostage by nearby homeowners.

He had seen them protesting at city hall, and they had filed a lawsuit to stop the project.

What he didn't know was that the locals were getting a lot of help. A grocery chain with nine stores in the area had hired Saint Consulting Group to secretly run the antidevelopment campaign. Saint is a specialist at fighting proposed Wal-Marts, and it uses tactics it describes as "black arts."…

Safeway, a national chain based in Pleasanton, Calif., retained Saint to thwart Wal-Mart Supercenters in more than 30 towns in California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii in recent years, according to a Saint project list and interviews with former employees. Former Saint employees say much of the work consisted of training Safeway's unionized workers to fight land-use battles, including how to speak at public hearings.

A few years back, I wrote about the history of big box panics.