Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Grocery strike news round up
Talks are expected to continue today in the Southern California grocery strike, the eighth straight day of talks between the union and the three major supermarket chains.
John Arnold, a spokesman for federal mediator Peter J. Hurtgen, said yesterday grocers and United Food and Commercial Workers Union have been talking into the evening for seven days. If they meet again today, as expected, it would be longest the sides have sat at the bargaining table since Dec. 2-8. [link]
I have to believe that they wouldn't be meeting if they weren't making progress. We may have gotten far enough into this thing that both sides want to end it.
There have been a lot of stories in recent days about the hardships the strikers are undergoing. This LA Times story about the caseworkers who decide how to distribute the UFCW's emergency assistance fund has been widely syndicated. The LA Times also ran this sympathetic profile of Rick Icaza, described as "labor's point man in the California supermarket strike." The profile features pithy quotes like these:
Icaza said he and other UFCW officials still hoped to reach a "fair and reasonable" deal to end their members' growing hardship.
"I know my members are suffering," Icaza said. "It's the most tragic thing that I've ever experienced. There are nights when I don't go to sleep."
Icaza also is aware of his place in the history books. "I just don't want to have that legacy of being the one that destroyed the very thing it's taken us 60 years to achieve," he said.
The UFCW has to regard both of these articles as extremely good press, especially considering that they came from the Times. I think we're seeing some of the effects of the AFL-CIO's stepped up involvement.
At the same time that the press is playing up the hardships of the workers, other unions are stepping up to help out. According to this report:
Tuesday morning, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 13 in Wilmington handed out 272 checks totaling $100,000 to financially strapped grocery clerks so they can continue paying for health care benefits.
ILWU Local 13 President Joe Donato will present individual checks to members of four United Food and Commercial Workers union locals who might otherwise lose their benefits at the end of the month, according to the union.
There are other positive signs. In New England an agreement between UFCW and Stop & Shop averted a strike that would have involved 42,000 workers. The issues there mirrored the issues in the California strike -- Stop & Shop wanted to significantly reduce the employer contribution to the cost of health care. In the end, it looks like both sides compromised but that the union got the better of the deal. [link]