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HomeNewsArchivesSenate Majority Leader Vows to Investigate Monday Pueblo Store Closings

Senate Majority Leader Vows to Investigate Monday Pueblo Store Closings

July 23, 2007 — Sen. Celestino White has vowed to visit Pueblo stores in person Tuesday morning to find out why they were closed without notice Monday.
Pueblo supermarkets on St. Thomas were closed Monday, reportedly for inventory. No one answered phones at the two St. Thomas stores or at the Pueblo International number. However, workers at the two St. Croix stores said Monday night they were open for business the entire day. No managers were available for further comment.
Last Wednesday, White announced that FLBN LLC was selling its Pueblo supermarkets in the territory to World Fresh Market. At that time, he said he expected the sale to take place Monday. (See “Pueblo Supermarkets to be Sold to World Fresh Market.”)
On Monday, White said he was upset that the two St. Thomas stores closed for inventory without notice to the staff, the government or the public.
"The owners, FLBN LLC, continue to play games," White said Monday evening. "After a very productive meeting with the buyers, we are still up against a wall of silence and disdain from the current owners."
Pueblo employees are upset because of the uncertainty of the situation, he said, adding that he was puzzled about why the St. Croix stores remained opened while the St. Thomas stores closed for inventory. Pueblo employs 198 people across the territory, White said.
White’s announcement about the store closing Monday came after business hours Monday, and no one could be reached at FLBN LLC. Additionally, FLBN Chief Executive Officer William Keon III did not return a phone call made Wednesday when White announced the stores were in the midst of being sold.
White sent staff members to investigate the Monday closings of the two St. Thomas Pueblos, located in Long Bay and Sub Base. His staff found some employees on hand — some doing inventory and others guarding the doors. The door at one store had a sign that said, "Store closed Today, Monday, July 23."
Workers told would-be shoppers that they expected the Long Bay store to reopen Tuesday and the Sub Base store to reopen Wednesday, but gave no guarantees, White said.
No one told Pueblo employees what was happening, the employees told White’s staff.
"This confusion and uncertainty is exactly what we were trying to avoid," White said. "This is bad business practice. Customers don't know what to do, and employees are scared and exasperated."
In a July 16 letter to Pueblo employees, Keon said the new owners were committed to retaining virtually all, if not all, of the current employees who want to continue working at the stores. However, White questioned how the old owners, FLBN, could ensure continued employment at stores they no longer owned. Keon also said the stores would continue to carry the Pueblo name.
To guarantee the rights of everyone involved, White said, he has called on the Licensing and Consumer Affairs Department, as well as the Department of Labor, to intercede.
"We want a business-friendly environment where everyone can make a living fairly and honestly and have the needs of the community served," White said. He plans to push for unionization of the Pueblo stores to make sure the workers get treated fairly.
The Sub Base Pueblo supermarket sits on land leased from the local government, White added. The Legislature approved the lease less than two years ago because FLBN promised to make improvements to poor conditions at the Sub Base store, he said.
"Nothing has been done," White said.
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