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by Lee Siu Hin
Sunday, Oct. 26, 2003 at 10:43 PM
The Role of Women & Asian Pacific Islanders In This Important Labor
By: Lee Siu Hin
October 25, 2003
Photo: Diana Truong-Davis Picket capitan from Vons supermarket, with CA assembly women Judy Chu during the Ahmabra Von's Supermarket rally, organized by APALA and CA assembly women Judy Chu on Oct 23.
strike.jpgqzjukz.jpg, image/jpeg, 288x216
"We will keep on striking as long as it takes!"
Diana Truong-Davis, picket captain from Vons Supermarkets
This is Los Angeles’s biggest labor strike since the janitor strike of 2000. Since mid-October, 70,000 supermarket clerks from Vons, Albertsons and Ralphs have been on strike or locked out of work in response to the management proposal to cut their health benefits in half. At the same time, thousands of mechanics and bus drivers from the city's Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) are standing strong on the picket line. In addition, on October 22 L.A. county professional employees and engineers demonstrated in a lunchtime labor protest (legally, government employees cannot go on strike), to demand better wages and protest cuts in benefits.
Largely ignored by the corporate media is the role of women and Asian Pacific Islanders in this important labor struggle. It's not difficult to realize just from looking at the picket lines that the majority of the striking workers and organizers are women, housewives, immigrants, people of color and inner city youth, including ten thousands Asian Pacific Islanders (APIs). Some suggest that this could be one of the biggest women/housewives/API organized labor struggles in recent U.S. history. The corporate executives from the three supermarket chains underestimated their women and new immigrant employees, assuming that people who barely speak English wouldn’t have the guts to go on strike-- but the workers' actions proved them wrong!
One Striking Supermarket Clerk's Story
Diana Truong-Davis is a picket captain from Vons Supermarkets from Alhambra, CA, and a wife, a mother and an API supermarket worker. She was one of the first organizers to call for a strike at her store, and led her co-workers to form a picket line in mid-October. She recently wrote a personal e-mail to her friends, explaining why she would risk her family income to go on strike:
"Currently Vons, Ralphs, and Albertsons are on strike. The employees are asking to keep what they have earned -- health care and pensions. It all started with Wal-Mart making Billions! They paid most of their employees minimum wage. Only the full timers get health care. 60% of [Wal-Mart] employees have no health care provided to them, yet their employers are making BILLIONS. [When our] Safeway, Ralphs, and Albertsons contract expired this year on Oct. 5th they decided to try the "Wal-Mart" way of business. This is why we are on strike. They sure did a great job of confusing shoppers with their ads to cover the real reason behind this strike--corporate greed. Employers earn profit with the hard work of the employees. In return, the employees should be able to 'earn' their health care. The markets also want to take away our pensions. Help me out here: if it was only [a] a week [healthcare payment], I would have gone back to work in a heartbeat rather than picket 17 hours a day in the heat and night. Just look at how Wal-Mart is making billions while stealing us blind in the health care department. I think we already pay enough for our hard work and being honest."
- Diana Truong-Davis, Picket captain
Facts and Issues in the Supermarket Worker's Strike
According to the union and the strike organizers, instead of having honest dialogue with the striking workers, the corporate executives from Vons, Albertsons and Ralphs refuse to negotiate, waging full-scale PR campaigns and taking out full-page ads in local newspapers to spread half-truths and even outright lies about their plans to slash wages and benefits, just to confuse the public. Here are some of their lies:
Health Care: The employers say they just want their employees to share a "reasonable" portion of their health care cost-the so-called a week for individuals and for families. THIS IS A LIE. The employers also want to increase co-payments, institute deductibles and place caps on payments for prescriptions and surgeries. This amounts to a 50% cut in medical benefits that would shift almost a billion dollars in health care costs onto the workers over the term of the contract.
Wages: Arguing that their employees are well paid, the employers selectively cite the highest wage levels of full-time food clerks - as if these wages are typical. They don't tell the public that many employees earn less than an hour. Furthermore, they don't tell the public that 75% of supermarket employees work part-time and must keep their schedules open so they can be called in to work at ANY TIME when needed. On average, these workers only make 2 a week.
Therefore, I urge everyone to support the striking workers! Please don't shop at Vons, Albertsons or Ralphs. This is a very important labor struggle. It isn’t just the living standards of 70,000 workers, mostly youth, women, people of color and immigrants, that are at stake here, but also the future of other labor struggles in Los Angeles. When greedy corporations increasingly want to slash workers’ wages and benefits to increase their earnings, we need to fight back!
For more information, please check:
or call: (213) 379-3631
*Lee Siu Hin is the organizer from ActionLA in Los Angeles, and the coordinate council member from United Students Against Sweatshops, to contact him e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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