Public Sympathetic To Union

Discussion
Dec 11, 2003
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Experts interviewed for a Christian Science Monitor piece say the general public may be more inclined to support the position of the United Food and Commercial Workers
Union (UFCW) than the supermarket chains involved in the lockout/strike in Southern California.


Kate Bronfenbrenner, a labor specialist at Cornell University said, “The public support that has helped keep this strike going longer than most thought it would is the latest
example of how corporate America is getting out of sync with working people. They are standing up to say, ‘Hey, wait a minute: This is against the public interest and it’s not
fair.’ “


Kent Wong, an analyst at the UCLA Labor Center said, “If a perfectly healthy grocery management succeeds in eliminating the health plans and other benefits of 70,000, it is a
very dangerous sign for the middle class in cities across America.”


“The public has resonated with this strike because these are people they see day to day in their own markets,” said Miguel Conteras, head of the Los Angeles Central Labor Council.
“This is a fight by common working folks trying to survive in a middle class that is shrinking all around them,” he said. “It’s a fight about what kind of society we all want
to live in.”


Moderator’s Comment: Do you agree that public opinion is stronger for the union than management in the Southern California labor dispute? Will public
opinion influence in any way the outcome of the negotiations?


First off, let us say that we think the union is wrong in their position. They will have to work with management to limit costs to compete more effectively
with non-union stores.


Having made that point, we think there is something missing from this cost of labor discussion and that is the compensation paid to non-union members of
the Albertsons, Kroger and Safeway chains.


How does, for example, a chief executive of a supermarket chain that is only the fraction of the size of Wal-Mart make more money than Lee Scott? This is
the same executive who is telling store associates that the company won’t survive if they don’t kick in to pay health benefits.


If the chains want this strike to end by getting concessions from the union, the answer is simple. Show the union that management’s compensation has been
reworked to make it more competitive with the shared enemy.


Until that happens, management should refrain from using sentences that begin with “All we are asking” in their comments to the union and press.
[George
Anderson – Moderator
]

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