imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
Features
latest news
best of news
syndication
commentary


KILLRADIO

VozMob

ABCF LA

A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List

LAAMN List




IMC Network:

Original Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

Grocery Strikers’ Heroic Fight for Healthcare

by by Muffy Sunde Thursday, Mar. 25, 2004 at 6:56 PM
lafsprw6@aol.com

In the end, workers who had fought so hard for five months were forced to accept a raw deal. They were unable to prevail against a bold united front of employers when their own leaders were not willing to organize an equally bold united front of labor.

On March 1st, 59,000 members of United Food and Commercial Workers in Southern California concluded the first major strike of the 21st century, and the longest in UFCW’s history.

The battle began on October 11, after three grocery chains, all with deep pockets, went to war against seven UFCW locals, demanding a contract with major take-aways, especially on the healthcare front. The triumvirate was cheered by Wall Street.

The grocery workers, finding themselves quite by accident on the front lines of a national war to force down wages and benefits to Wal-Mart levels, rose to the challenge like champions. Relatively low-paid, mostly women and people of color, they rallied support from Los Angeles to New York City. Their picket lines emptied stores and cost grocers billion.

But in the end, workers who had fought so hard for five months were forced to accept a raw deal. They were unable to prevail against a bold united front of employers when their own leaders were not willing to organize an equally bold united front of labor.

As the dust settles, the strike’s lessons are still being sorted out. One is clearly that the entire labor movement needs to see unionizing Wal-Mart and nationalizing healthcare as do-or-die fights.

For the ranks, another key lesson is that union leaders like those of the UFCW and AFL-CIO would rather sacrifice wages and benefits than risk losing control over their membership by calling them into the streets. Other major contract battles are looming. Now is the time for rank-and-filers to get organized and push their officers either to do what it takes to win these fights or to step aside and make way for new leaders who will.

Contract: new hires get the shaft. Going into the strike, the stakes were high. Despite clearing billion in combined profits, Vons/Safeway, Albertson’s, and Ralphs/Krogers entered negotiations claiming they must compete with Wal-Mart, the superstore notorious for low wages and unionbusting.

Courtney Williams, a deli employee at Albertson’s and picket leader from UFCW Local 1442 in Los Angeles, summarized the situation going into the strike: “Like most people, they’ll only give me part-time, and I make .85 an hour. My weekly take-home is 7. The stores’ proposal would freeze my wages for three years, plus cost me weekly for healthcare the first year. By the third year I’d have to pay a week for my medical. How can I live on what’s left?”

While the final contract improves on the original offer, it doesn’t save affordable healthcare, as AFL-CIO President John Sweeney claims in a rosy press statement.

The most serious setback is a two-tier system that gouges new hires, who will earn to per hour less to start and to per hour less at the top end of the scale. They aren’t eligible for health benefits until a year after hire and will pay more for reduced benefits. Dependents won’t be eligible for 30 months.

Outrageously, the contract settlement doesn’t provide for every striker’s return to work. It allows the three grocery chains to fire up to 30 members each and requires UFCW to drop 35,000 unemployment claims for members locked out by Ralphs and Albertson’s.

Rallying around the cause. Everyone knew Southern California was a key battleground in the nationwide struggle to retain healthcare for all workers. Unions and community groups came out in force to help UFCW win.

Union locals large and small gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the strike. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor mobilized huge rallies; longshore workers attended one en masse, closing the port. Huge numbers of customers, worried about their own healthcare, took their shopping elsewhere.

The National Lawyers Guild trained picketers as to their legal rights. Antiwar, student, and community groups, among them the Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women, walked picket lines and raised money around the country.

The strikers themselves engaged in creative and defiant tactics, including roving picket lines. Local 1442, one of the most democratic and militant of the locals, reached out to the community and invited groups including Radical Women to speak at rallies and meetings.

Union leaders fail to rise to the occasion. But all of this was not enough. And, after five months, strikers could not keep holding out. In January, most lost their health coverage and half of their strike pay. Locked-out employees were refused unemployment benefits. However, what ultimately undercut the strikers was conservative union leadership.

From the get-go, the supermarket giants pooled their resources and got support from banks and Wall Street. They recognized this as a class battle.

In contrast, UFCW leaders failed to develop a national multi-union strategy even though the outcome would be felt nationally. They didn’t try to shut down all three grocers and their warehouses or utilize the AFL-CIO’s considerable resources to mobilize the working class.

Instead, leaders ran a traditional, local strike that picketed only Vons/Safeway and Albertson’s. Even an announced national boycott of Safeway was not implemented beyond Southern California until three months into the strike.

Another crippling weakness was UFCW’s top-down bureaucracy. The negotiating team had no rank-and-file participation. And most locals did not hold regular membership meetings to keep morale up and information flowing.

A democratically run, joint union/community coalition to coordinate strike support could have mobilized people more and kept the fight on track. The county labor federation did a good job of organizing mass rallies, a strike fund, and a food bank. But it deferred to UFCW leaders, rather than trying to persuade them to switch to more militant tactics.

Meanwhile, AFL-CIO President Sweeney flew into town two months into the strike, promised help, and promptly disappeared. When pickets were organized in other cities, it was too little, too late.

Labor’s masochistic relationship with the Democrats also yielded nothing. No pressure was put on the party to sanction employers for their illegal lockout of 35,000 UFCW members. Yet the county labor federation pulled Local 770 picketers during the strike’s last week to campaign for political candidates.

The unions can win. In what turned out to be the grocery strike’s final weeks, Nellie Wong, a Freedom Socialist Party organizer and union delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council, introduced a resolution in the council calling for a one-day solidarity strike on the West Coast. (Visit www.socialism.com for a copy.) It also called on the AFL-CIO to help build such an action by redirecting million earmarked to support Democratic candidates.

SFLC delegates passed the resolution unanimously. It was also adopted by locals in Seattle and Los Angeles, and greeted with enthusiasm by grocery workers.

The solidarity strike is an important weapon at a time when the bosses are absolutely determined to force a new era of concessions from labor, especially in the area of healthcare. Labor has to recognize that the bosses have declared war. It is not business as usual.

The important thing now is for unionists facing their own contract battles to take heart from the determined clerks, checkers, and stockers who held out for five months against all the bosses threw at them. The grocery strike didn’t have to end this way, and this isn’t the end of the story. If rank-and-filers organize now to make their voices the decisive ones in the coming fights, it will be a whole new ball game. And it’s about damn time.

Muffy Sunde, a veteran activist in the Communications Workers of America, may be reached at LAFSPRW6@aol.com.

Report this post as:

Local News

More Pix: "Families Belong Together," Pasadena J02 12:16PM

"Families Belong Together" March, Pasadena J02 12:08PM

Short Report on the Families Belong Together Protest in Los Angeles J30 4:26PM

Summer 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! J10 11:58PM

Watch the Debate: Excluded Candidates for Governor of California M30 10:20PM

Change Links June 2018 posted M28 12:41AM

The Montrose Peace Vigil at 12 Years M22 1:01PM

Unity Archive Project M21 2:42AM

Dianne Feinstein's Promotion of War, Secret Animal Abuse, Military Profiteering, Censorshi M17 3:22PM

CA Senate Bill 1303 would require an independent coroner rather than being part of police M10 2:08PM

Three years after OC snitch scandal, no charges filed against sheriffs deputies M10 1:57PM

California police agencies violate Brown Act (open meetings) M02 1:31PM

Insane Company Wants To Send Nuke Plant Waste To New Mexico A29 4:47PM

Change Links May 2018 A27 1:40AM

Worker-Owned Car Wash on Vermont Closed A26 10:37PM

GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE A12 5:39PM

lausd whistle blower A10 11:58PM

Website Upgrade A10 3:02AM

Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images A04 1:02PM

UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light A02 11:58AM

Change Links April 2018 A01 11:27AM

Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018 M31 6:57PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 7:00PM

Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! M19 2:02PM

Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A. M16 5:40PM

Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released M15 12:34AM

Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups M06 12:10PM

After Being Told He's 'Full of Sh*t' at School Event, Mnuchin Demands UCLA Suppress Video M02 11:44AM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

Democratic Socialists of America J14 4:57PM

Leonard Peltier Non Violent Native American Political Prisoner since 1970's J14 4:18PM

Paraphysique miscellanées de l'aggiornamento J14 12:54AM

Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Cleanup J13 4:14PM

FBI Investigated LA County Sheriff Baca,Why Not Hank Skinner's Persecution? J13 3:52PM

Updated Partial List Of Famous Vegetarians, Vegans, & Fruitarians J13 2:59PM

The Shortwave Report 07136/18 Listen Globally! J12 4:36PM

Social Policy as Social Infrastructure J12 3:38AM

Vol I: 84 Varieties Of GOP Election Fraud J12 1:50AM

Texas Can Call it An Execution,But It is A State Sponsored Murder of Hank Skinner.. J11 6:48PM

June 2018 Honduras coup update J11 3:35PM

Maria Estrada doubles down on racist support J11 1:40PM

New York Women in Film & Television Announces 2018 NYWIFT Ha Phuong Scholarship Recipients J11 10:14AM

Trapps de la domination, trapps de l'aliénation J11 1:31AM

Please Work For The Defeat Of Brett Kavanaugh And Why J09 8:54PM

Change Links 2018 July posted J09 1:27PM

Transinhumanisme ( transe inhumanisme ) J09 12:44PM

Google, World's Biggest Censor, Was Founded By The CIA J09 10:25AM

For a World Free of Nuclear Risks J09 8:29AM

Corrupt CDC Ignores Meat Fish Recalls J09 4:55AM

The (Temporary) End of Globalization J09 3:03AM

Aternatives to Abortions such as Plan B the pill, condoms and IUD J08 4:03PM

U.S Congressional Legal Minds Know Better Than Allowing Texas To Murder Hank Skinner J08 3:37PM

ACLU in many US states defends in court KKK and American Nazis Sometimes for Money J07 11:28PM

Judge Brett Kavanaugh: 12 Of Many Reasons To Oppose Him J07 9:00AM

Insensibilité engrammée J07 2:37AM

Silver Lining J07 12:21AM

The Shortwave Report 07/06/18 Listen Globally! J05 4:38PM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy