- js reader version
- view hidden posts
- tags and related articles
by Charles Walker
Tuesday, Jan. 06, 2004 at 8:40 PM
"The strategy of relying on token informational pickets in in northern California, rather than extending the strike, is part of a loosing strategy by the UFCW bureaucrats that is defeating the strike. With a defeat in southern California it will be easy to extract concessions here. Victory will only come through real solidarity, with a militant rank and file class struggle leadership in the union that challenges the career bureaucrats for the continued life of the union!" --Steve Argue
Misleaders’ Strategy Undermines Grocery Strike
By Charles Walker
On December 19, 2003, negotiators for the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW), representing 70,000 southern California strikers, announced that that very day they had offered 0 million in concessions in health care costs over three years to settle the strike/lockout involving three major grocery chains, but the chains rejected the offer. The offered concessions fell short of the billion in health care reductions that, according to union officials, the supermarket owners are seeking.
The three supermarket chains are also demanding the reduction of wages and benefits for new hires. Over the past two decades grocery workers across the nation have experienced a sharp decline in average wages, reductions in work hours, and the loss of work to vendors. The loss of a billon dollars in health care benefits would quickly mean that the strikers’ jobs would be little better than many so-called living wage jobs, as many grocery workers’ jobs already are in other parts of the country.
Sadly, more than two months into the strike/lockout that began October 11 it may not be too soon to declare the grocery strike lost. The grocery chains, separately owned by Kroger, Albertsons, and Safeway, have outfought the strikers, even though to date the companies’ immediate losses in sales and unannounced strike expenses run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Seemingly, the three corporations are prepared to spend much more than that to win the strike.
By handing the strikers a major defeat, the supermarket owners probably expect to win further concessions from the UFCW and the Teamsters union without further “labor disruptions”—as other contracts are negotiated in the months and years ahead. Wall Street analysts said at the start that the firms were out to win a major victory over their unionized workforce.
If the strikers are badly defeated, that is, if they are forced to give the three corporations what they are demanding; the loss should not be blamed on the rank-and-file workers. The grocery strikers have shown great courage and stamina in their fight. No doubt they possess the qualities needed for an all-out fight. But they have been handicapped.
To what extent were rank-and-file union members included in decision making about the strike? Although the rank-and-file members were able to vote on the question of rejecting the companies’ contract offer—which 95% of those voting did—and they also voted to strike, there’s no evidence that they voted to offer the supermarkets any concessions. Nor is there evidence that they voted to remove their pickets not once but twice from the chains’ distribution centers, allowing the Teamsters to return to work. Nor did they vote to remain cooped up rather than extend the strike.
The union’s tops have made all the strategic decisions from the strike’s first day. It’s not clear that the strikers would have made different decisions. Still, it seems reasonable to expect that many of the strikers, if not a majority, after gaining hands-on experience for a month or two, would not have been inclined to maintain the failed strategy that has governed the strike from day one.
The main elements of that strategy consisted in (1) not impacting the grocery barons’ profits, except in Southern California; (2) attempting to take advantage of the chains’ mutual rivalry for profits, at the same time that the firms have erected a united front to deal with their unionized workers; and (3) relying on token picket lines, not massive lines capable of halting deliveries by union and nonunion vendors alike.
The corporations told the UFCW more than a year ago to expect major demands for concessions, and the bosses went on to prepare financially for the anticipated strike by the union. The three supermarket chains even agreed to share financially the hazards and losses of a strike. With this solidarity established among the bosses, the hiring of scabs and the importation of management teams from other areas was comparatively small potatoes.
All of the employers’ preparations were known to the union’s officialdom when the strikers hit the bricks. Yet from day one, the union attempted to portray Kroger and Albertsons as not as bad as Safeway, so it only struck Safeway. Kroger, doing business as Ralphs, and Albertsons simultaneously locked out their UFCW members the same day the strike began. That didn’t sway the union’s strategists, who two weeks into the strike removed their pickets from Kroger/Ralphs supermarkets and encouraged consumers to shop there. Reportedly, the Kroger chain has agreed to share its profits with Safeway and Albertsons.
The union has not attempted to create massive picket lines at any of the chains’ 852 stores, nor at the Teamster-organized distribution warehouses, a vital link in the stores’ supply lines. Even when the UFCW sent pickets to two of the warehouses, they didn’t attempt to halt the flow of meat, produce, and dry goods that scabs began delivering. Two weeks into the strike the UFCW removed its pickets, and Teamsters returned to their jobs, delivering their cargo to the supermarkets’ driveways, where management and scab drivers took the keys and backed the rigs up to the loading docks.
In a turnabout just before Thanksgiving, the UFCW posted pickets at all ten union warehouses supplying the supermarkets in southern California. The 8,000 Teamsters were advised by their officials to keep away from the picket lines, which in the main they did. Then on December 19 the UFCW once again removed their pickets “as a goodwill gesture,” and later that same day the companies rejected the union’s concessions, breaking off talks, initiated by a federal mediator.
If the strike had been extended to much of the nation, costing the grocery corporations far more than they had budgeted, perhaps their shareholders and creditors would by now have had second thoughts. As it is, the workers’ finances—which while working meant for many living from paycheck to paycheck—have got to be stretched thin, and, understandably, they may be entertaining thoughts about settling for what the bosses are willing to offer.
Seemingly, the grocery corporations are prepared financially to endure the strike/lockout for many more weeks. Obviously the workers are not similarly financed. John J. Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, has failed to raise the massive funds necessary to keep broke strikers on the token picket lines, stave off evictions or ensure needed health care.
To this day, while strikers walk picket lines, other grocery workers in adjoining counties report to work each day. Yes, those workers have contracts (to be renegotiated next year in some cases), but it is entirely legal for them to honor picket lines of other sanctioned pickets.
To this day, the union has refused to damage the three chains’ profits further by picketing those stores. It’s true the union has sent token teams of “informational pickets” to a few stores owned by Safeway in northern California and the Washington, D.C., area, but the results have been meager. In contrast, a few years ago Safeway workers in northern California struck, and Safeway’s stores were virtually abandoned by shoppers. However, informational pickets don’t stop many consumers, don’t stop deliveries by unionized drivers, and of course, don’t stop the employed UFCW workforce from daily continuing to contribute to Safeway’s revenue stream.
These days labor victories are rare, but as the 1997 UPS struggle showed, they are not only possible; they attract the attention of other workers, organized or not, and inspire them. That attention and inspiration may well have become emulation after the UPS strike were it not for the government’s removal of the Ron Carey leadership of the Teamsters union. But labor victories will not occur as long as the outlook of a strike’s policymakers resembles those of the grocery workers’ leadership.
No doubt, the strike has been marked by tactical errors and mistakes. But more importantly the strike has been undermined by the UFCW officialdom’s strategy of refusing to wage an all-out fight, despite the supermarket owners’ outrageous provocations.
Report this post as:
GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE
lausd whistle blower
Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images
UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light
Change Links April 2018
Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018
Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018!
Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018!
Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert!
Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A.
Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released
Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups
After Being Told He's 'Full of Sh*t' at School Event, Mnuchin Demands UCLA Suppress Video
Resolution of the Rent Strike in Boyle Heights
What Big Brother Knows About You and What You Can Do About It
Step Up As LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Steps Down
Our House Grief Support Center Hosts 9th Annual Run For Hope, April 29
Don’t let this LA County Probation Department overhaul proposal sit on the shelf
Echo Park Residents Sue LA Over Controversial Development
Former Signal Hill police officer pleads guilty in road-rage incident in Irvine
Calif. Police Accused of 'Collusion' With Neo-Nazis After Release of Court Documents
Center for the Study of Political Graphics exhibit on Police Abuse posters
City Agrees to Settle Lawsuit Claiming Pasadena Police Officer Had His Sister Falsely Arre
Professor's Study Highlights Health Risks of Urban Oil Drilling
Claims paid involving Pasadena Police Department 2014 to present
Pasadenans - get your license plate reader records from police
LA Times Homicide Report
More Local News...
Doxa du lobby
Tech workers organize
Architect Stephen Francis Jones
UN Forum Wrestles with Economic Policies 10 Years After Financial Crisis Islands Call for
Shadowgun Legends Hack and Cheats
What does the Quran Say About Islamic Dress??
Biodiversité ou la nature privatisée
The Market is a Universal Totalitarian Religion
Book Available about Hispanics and US Civil War by National Park Service
The Shortwave Report 04/20/18 Listen Globally!
The Republican 'Prolife' Party Is the Party of War, Execution, and Bear Cub Murder
Paraphysique de la dictature étatique
Book Review: "The New Bonapartists"
The West Must Take the First Steps to Russia
Théorie générale de la révolution ou hommage à feu Mikhaïl Bakounine
The Shortwave Report 04/13/18 Listen Globally!
“Lost in a Dream” Singing Competition Winner to Be Chosen on April 15 for ,000 Prize!
The World Dependent on Central Banks
Ohio Governor Race: Dennis Kucinich & Richard Cordray Run Against Mike DeWine
March 2018 Honduras Coup Again Update
Apologie du zadisme insurrectionnel
ICE contract with license plate reader company
Black Portraiture(S) IV: The Color of Silence...Cuba No...Cambridge Yes
Prohibiting Micro-Second Betting on the Exchanges
Prosecutors treat Muslims harsher than non-Muslims for the same crimes
More Breaking News...