A local union has set its sights on a British grocery store chain that is opening stores in the Valley.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 99 said in unsigned mailings that Tesco has a reputation for selling alcohol to minors in its home country.“Tesco is currently facing numerous investigations in Britain for selling alcohol to minors,” the fliers say.

Tesco recently announced that it will open a new line of grocery stores in the Southwest called Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets. The fliers say that the company’s stores in one English county were suspended from selling alcohol as a penalty for illicit liquor sales.

Bob Grossfeld, a spokesman for the union, said the mailing campaign was not a veiled attempt to cow the company into cooperating with a unionization effort. Instead, he said the union is acting as a concerned member of the community.

Simon Uwins, a spokesman for Fresh & Easy, acknowledged that three of Tesco’s stores in the United Kingdom were penalized for selling alcohol to minors, but said they were “very isolated” incidents. He said that unlike the United States, merchants in England aren’t required to check identifications. That means that determining a customers age can be a subjective process.

“It’s down to the judgment of the individual,” he said.

Uwins said the company was not planning to respond to the union’s allegations, which he called misrepresentations. He also said the company would not give in to the union’s requests to meet.

Wes Kuhl, a public information officer with the Arizona Department of Liquor License & Control, said the department received about 150 e-mails from people expressing concern over Tesco’s liquor license requests.Kuhl said he thinks the complaints were a direct result of the union’s campaign.

Although the liquor application process is already a lengthy process for merchants, Kuhl said the allegations would make the process even longer because it would result in hearings before the state’s liquor board.

Mindy McBain, a writer for The Shelby Report, a trade publication that tracks the grocery industry, said nearly every major supermarket chain in the United States have had their liquor licenses suspended at some of their stores for selling booze to minors and said it would be remarkable if a company didn’t have some minor warts on its record. “Every company’s going to going to have stores that get suspended once in a while,” she said.

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