The local unions are gearing up for active warfare, with strikes looming from the grocery store to the college campus. I just received this missive from my own union president, Jim Mahler, of American Federation of Teachers local 1931. (Yeah, I’m a union guy. Gotta problem wi’ dat?) If you ever wondered why shopping at locally owned stores matter, this should tell you why:
Three years ago the supermarket chains locked out their workers for 141 days in an effort to break the union. While the UFCW survived the lock-out and saved benefits for current employees at the time, the chains insisted on and got a two-tier wage system that imposed massive wage and benefit cuts on new employees.
The argument at the time was that Wal Mart and Costco were increasing market share and that the two-tiered system was a necessity to save Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons from being overwhelmed by their big box competitors. Living wages and family benefits, the chains claimed, were simply economic impossiblilties.
Three years later, that assertion has been proven wrong as the market share of Wal Mart and Costco has actually decreased since the current contract was signed. Despite this development and the fact that Ralphs, Vons, and Albertsons are raking in record profits of $3 billion each, the chains are still refusing to eliminate the two-tiered system in the new contract. In contrast, Stater Brothers, with an annual profit of $26 million found that it was possible to eliminate the two-tiered system and give their employees wage and benefit increases.
It is clear that Ralphs, Vons, and Albertsons, with their much larger profits can afford to treat their workers with the respect and dignity they deserve and eliminate the two-tier system which will eventually transform what were once solid blue collar jobs into yet another dead end for the working poor. It will also add to the ranks of the millions of Americans wtihout affordable health care coverage. As public sector union workers with good health care, job security, and pensions, it is our moral obligation to support our union (and non-union) brothers and sisters who are struggling to save living wage jobs with health benefits in what has become an increasingly hostile economic environment for working and middle class American families.
Couldn’t have said it better myself. Coming up I’ll explain why college professors have much more in common with grocery workers than with CEOs,, and why CEO’s have more in common with superstar athletes and rockstars than with the rest of us average mortals. And it has nothing to do with education, personal effort or moral fortitude.