Protesters haven't left 2 grocery stores since opening

Protests outside 2 Twin Cities grocery stores

MINNETONKA, Minn. - If you've driven by two suburban grocery stores recently, you may have noticed the people protesting outside - telling you 'not' to shop there.

The protesters outside say "don't shop here" - and the manager inside Glen Lake's Market says their message has made an impact.

"It's obviously not doing well for us as a business, and it's possibly going to lead to our closure," said general manager Alan Cummins.

The protesters are organized by Local 653 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

And they've been outside Glen Lake's Market in Minnetonka and Victoria's Market in Victoria since the two stores opened in May and June.

"When Mr. Wartman does the right thing, we will be gone," said Matt Utecht, president of the union.

Tom Wartman was the owner of the previous stores in those spots - Fresh Seasons Market. About 120 people lost their jobs in May 2014 when Fresh Seasons went out of business -- and was unable to compensate all of their accrued vacation holiday pay.

The union representing those workers wants Wartman to pay up.

"We're not out here asking for anything that these workers haven't already earned," Utecht said.

And the reason they're here -- Wartman owns the buildings where the new stores are located. A group of investors, including his son Tom Jr., owns the new businesses. Wartman Sr. has developed several of the buildings in the Glen Lake community.

"If I didn't believe Tom Wartman had the ability to pay that, I would not be out here," Utecht said.

But Wartman says he's not responsible for paying those Fresh Seasons workers.

"Tom Wartman lost his complete investment," Tom Wartman said. "The banks swept the accounts and there was no money left."

Wartman and Cummins say another hundred workers could lose their jobs if the protests continue.

"This is really unfair to the community, to the employees, and to the business," Cummins said.

Much of the mess will be settled in court. There are lawsuits in state and federal court.

As you might guess there are lot of things disputed here starting with the amount of unpaid vacation pay. The union says more than $100,000 -- Wartman says over $40,000.


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