By Bob Shimubukuro
UFCW 21 reports that the Companies (Safeway, Fred Meyer, QFC, Albertsons) are not willing to negotiate seriously, sticking by their previous offers: drop family health coverage for those working less than 30 hours/week, and personal health coverage for those working less than 20 hours/week.
Bob’s translation of Company offer: “Despite the fact that we’re making a lot of money, we need to cut back on what we give to the workers.”
The union is having more informational picketing at many local stores August 28, and they are also gearing up for more pressure, contacting supporting community organizations and individuals about the possibility of sponsorship for union action that might bring the Companies into a little more serious bargaining sessions.
As we mentioned in earlier issues of the Advocate, health care and insurance are very big issues for UFCW rank and file, and they don’t want to see any backsliding on that. This is a huge issue for labor right now, not only in the grocery, retail business, but in the hospital/medical service industry, too. In fact, all employers are looking for ways to get hard earned employee benefits off the table. Some employers don’t even want a living wage, let alone a benefits package, on the table, so we know it’s not just a union issue. All workers should be alarmed.
When we hear that companies like UPS, and institutions like our State of Washington are weighing consequences of dumping family health coverage as part of the compensation package we have to realize that UFCW and SEIU (fighting for a living wage for airport workers) are not going to be isolated incidents. In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a real dogfight that affects all of us 99 per centers.
We need to have a strong response to this assault. We need to support labor, we need to support communities, we need to protect our air, water and land. And we need to share responsibility.
If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that there is too much inequity. PSARA is one organization that is battling on all fronts to bring a more level playing field for all. We need to have a decent place to live, learn, eat, sleep, work, play, and die.
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Bob Shimubukuro is a member of PSARA’s Executive Board and Associate Editor of the Retiree Advocate.