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April 01, 2013

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To Trey and Ike and Mike Basha: I hope you and the "members" find a way to sustain and grow what your family has worked so hard to build. The odious United Food & Chemical Workers union couldn't bring you down, so we know you have grit and staying power. When a meatcutter tells me that he's heartbroken at Eddie's passing, that counts for a lot more than statements from the rich and powerful. I knew the man for a long time . . but not well, but I remember his campaign stump speech with a few notes on a dog-eared index card extolling the virtues of cradle to grave education in Arizona. And I remember him telling me that my daughter was entering an honorable profession 25 years ago when she started subbing at inner city schools. He was a true mensch.

We moved to Chandler in 2004. I asked every Chandler native about him and no one had a bad thing to say about him. A cashier at a Basha's near our house was obviously a big fan and stayed that way thru the rough patch Basha's endured.

Basha's seems to give money to all types of good causes big and small in AZ. My perception is that Eddie had a big part in making that happen.

It's a huge hit that he's gone now. My family appreciated him and hopes the rest of the Basha family takes after their generous patriarch.

I had two conversations with Eddie Basha, both in 1987. That was the year of the Mecham recall campaign, which Eddie had, as delicately as possible, offered himself as a replacement to the beleaguered governor. Carolyn Warner was another possibility (she had lost to Mecham the year earlier in the three-way general election campaign). Since Eddie's ambition was dependent on a successful recall petition drive, I asked him on talk radio why his grocery chain wouldn't allow petition gatherers on site. Eddie said they now would be and the recall campaign was given a huge boost as a result.

The second time was in September when Pope John Paul II visited Phoenix. I had my petition clipboard at Civic Plaza where a line of Catholic VIPs were filed in front of an exhibition hall waiting for a "private audience" with the pope. I walked silently beside them with a simple RECALL sign on the back of the clipboard when, lo and behold, there's Eddie, his wife (or girlfriend at the time), and a raft of friends. Almost in unison they shouted "C'mon, sign it Eddie!". Eddie looked at me, smiling, and hissed: "get out here". His was a convincing Telly Savalas impersonation, so I obeyed. Nadine did sign, however.

It was all for naught, of course. The legislature took over, impeached and convicted Mecham, thus ending Eddie's best shot. Rose Mofford, a loveable if confused fixture at the state capital was now governor. J Fife Symington, who donated $2,000 to the recall campaign began preparing for his 1990 run for the office. He won, paradoxically, with the help of a whisper campaign about Terry Goddard's sexuality.

I'll mention this in passing to illustrate how far Arizona has collapsed from those days in the '80s when the political center was still a potent force in the state. Those names: Basha, Warner, Goddard, Babbitt, Barr, Schulz, DeConcini, and even early Symington ruled. Since then, it's been all downhill. Ev Mecham had fake hair and Jan Brewer has fake teeth, but you might think it's a distinction without much difference.

Thanks, Jack, for a fine column.

The last time I spoke to Eddie in person was before I lost my column at the Republic. "I'm coming downtown," he said. "I promise. Count on it." That didn't happen, unfortunately, because of the recession and the company's near-death experience. It was the only promise I know of that he didn't keep. But it points to him as a last of his kind, an Arizona businessman who saw the health of the city and state as inextricably intertwined with the health of his company.

The pioneer families, especially those with means or who built substantial businesses, are almost all gone. The stewardship that the best of them brought is, too.

I must defend the United Food and Commercial Workers, who ensure that thousands of members have better wages and benefits than they otherwise would in our devil-take-the-hindmost society. The war on unions and the decline of the middle class follow an identical trajectory. Eddie was an anti-union Democrat, not unusual in Arizona, and one who thought he was providing good jobs and didn't need a union.

I was one of those honored by Eddie Basha prank calls. Once I offended a VIP when he identified himself and I said, "Come on, Eddie, not now! I'm on deadline." In this case, it wasn't Eddie, but he got a laugh out of the story.

Jon: from 20 years in the supermarket field, I can attest that UFCW's tactics were the kind that can give unions a bad name. See what turned up in their antics vis a vis Food Lion. With Bashas' their objective appeared to be one of bringing the company to its knees. I maintain friendships with those who tried to protect the company from a blizzard of negative publicity financed by outside money. Suffice it to say that this took a heavy toll on Eddie.

Food Lion was a ... let me avoid libel. Unions are a necessary counterweight to corporate thuggery. Each side has its excesses in the past but we have lost that pluralism.

Beginning several years ago about twice a month my local Bashas’ store hired a group of mentally handicapped teens to stock shelves. I always admired that about Bashas’.

I believe Eddie Basha was too honest and forthright to survive in the arizona politcal arena.

I always shop at Bashas' because of Eddie and because a locally owned store (or chain of stores) is much better for the health of the local economy than shopping at a national chain that just sees AZ as a colony to be raped and pillaged. The produce at Bashas' is much better than anywhere else too!

If more businesss owners treated their employees and communities with as much respect as Eddie Basha did, there would be no need for "odious" unions.

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