10 September 2009

Grocery Strike Looming?

Colorado grocery store workers at King Soopers and Safeway represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 have received a final, best offer from their employers, that union officials claim differs little from an offer that the rank and file rejected with more than 90% voting against it.

Grocery workers in Colorado have gone on strike (painfully for them, management and the community) in recent history, so the threat of a strike is credible. Grocery stores have been among the least impacted by the current recession, so they have a harder time claiming a need to cut costs than other employers. Signs seeking job applications from scabs are visible at almost every front range grocery store.

If grocery store workers vote this proposal down, there will probably be a strike (and a strike by one group of workers could lead to a lock out of other area grocery store workers under a controverial agreement). Pro-union shoppers may have to decide whether to favor non-union ordinary grocery stores like Target and Wal-Mart, that they have historically avoid, at uninvolved natural food and specialty stores (which are pricey), if they don't want to cross picket lines for the privilege of shopping at their regular grocery stores, staffed by management and scabs.

The dispute made headlines earlier this year when Democratic Governor Bill Ritter vetoed a bill that would have allowed locked out (but not striking) workers eligible for unemployment benefits, a move that sparked outrage from grass roots Democratic party members, including many who have no direct connection to unions. His veto was based upon a claimed desire not to take sides in the current labor-management dispute at Colorado grocery stores, despite the fact that he didn't claim that the legislative proposal was a bad idea as a matter of policy.


Michael Malak said...

There's also Albertson's and Sunflower Market (which is inexpensive).

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Sunflower I lumped in the category of natural foods -- it is expensive for somethings and cheap for others.

Albertson's I avoided discussing one way or the other because I don't know. Albertson's employees are also part of UFAC Local 7, and at one point Albertson's, Safeway and King Soopers had a "mutual defense" type agreement on handling their dealings with Local 7. There was talk at one point about the possibility that they would be locked out even if they weren't striking. I haven't been following the negotiations closely enough to know what is going on with Albertson's.

Did Albertson's get a contract agreed to? Most of the news focus for that chain of stores has been on its store closings.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

As of August 28, 2009, >there was not a contract with Albertsons workers. THe UFCW website doesn't suggest that there is now.

Albertson may be holding off on making a final offer while it evaluates the issue of its store closings.

Dave Barnes said...

replacement workers?

try a more neutral word than scabs.

P.S. I will be supporting the workers when they go out on strike as I just hate Kroger management playing with themselves in Cinci.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Being a scab isn't neutral.