Dems call on Labor Dept. to investigate grocery chain

House Democrats from Arizona, California and Nevada are calling on the Obama administration to investigate alleged labor law violations by one of North America’s largest retailers.  

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In a letter Monday, 19 Democrats asked Labor Secretary Thomas PerezThomas E. PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE to expedite the review of complaints that have been filed against the Mexican retail giant Grupo Comercial Chedraui and its U.S.-based grocery chain El Super. A coalition of U.S. and Mexican labor and civil society groups  have accused the company of prohibiting employees from joining labor unions, inquiring about pregnancies during job interviews to screen out pregnant women and hiring volunteer grocery packers who are paid only tips.

“These practices are ongoing and workers have no ability under the current legal system to form independent unions and challenge unjust working conditions,” said the letter, which included the signatures of Reps. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) and Raúl Manuel Grijalva (D-Ariz.). “The Mexican government has failed to meaningfully reform its labor laws and to effectively enforce its law.”

Without scrutiny from the International Labor Organization, the lawmakers fear the issues will be swept under the rug.

“At this significant moment in trade negotiations, we believe it is imperative for the U.S. and Mexican governments to adhere to commitments outlined in existing trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation.”

The same group of Democrats also sent a letter to Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryColombia's president is a foreign guest Trump should listen to Anti-ISIS cyber op struggled with issue of notifying allies How American compassion, vision and innovation can end the AIDS epidemic MORE on Monday, calling for an expedited investigation.

According to Change to Win Retail Initiatives, Chedraui is Mexico’s third-largest retail chain, with 35,000 employees in more than 200 stores throughout the country. The company controls the California-based Bodega Latina Corporation, which does business as the El Super grocery chain. El Super has 50 supermarkets that employ more than 5,000 workers in California, Arizona and Nevada.