The LA Times (and others) is claiming that the grocery workers' strike is causing turmoil and confusion, but I went shopping last night and didn't really notice anything was amiss. Could it be that huge numbers of picketers and protesters only show up when there are journalists and cameras around?
Shoppers in Southern California arrived at their local supermarkets Sunday to buy groceries, only to find turmoil as thousands of union workers picketed the region's three largest chains. ...Yeah, there's no way that non-union workers could possibly provide the level of service we're used to at our grocery stores. I mean, it takes intense training for a half-dozen people to stand around talking instead of opening a new check-out station just because there are 10 people in line. Give me a break.
"Support our picket lines! Don't shop at this store!" sign-wielding clerks yelled out to customers pulling into the parking lot of a Vons in Eagle Rock.
Picketing workers discouraged many customers from entering the stores, leaving aisles mostly deserted. Those who crossed the picket lines to shop found a few clerks fumbling with the store's cash registers.
"It's very bad in there," said Sondra Alcantara, as she lifted her bags into the back of her SUV at the Eagle Rock Vons. "The guy didn't know what he was doing," she said, adding that he tried to give her change twice.
Workers walking the picket lines at stores around the Southland said they were disappointed that things had come down to a strike, but they insisted that they were prepared to hold out for as long as it took to preserve their health care and pension benefits, which the companies are intent on rolling back.It's possible that the work you perform isn't worth as much as you think it is. Also, I've never heard of a grocery union worker making that little. I know people who work at and manage grocery stores, and no one makes that little there unless they've just been hired. The LA Times does give some hard numbers:
"I get paid 80 cents above minimum wage," said Gina Guglielmotti, a floral clerk overseeing locked-out workers at a Pasadena Ralphs. "People just don't realize what we're fighting for. They think we're ungrateful. But we want to stop the constant degression of wages."
UFCW negotiators are seeking hourly wage increases of 50 cents the first year and 45 cents each of the following two years. Veteran clerks and stockers now earn as much as $17.90 an hour. Meat cutters, the highest-paid union employees, earn up to $19.18 an hour. Baggers earn up to $7.40 an hour.It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that the store owners think they can get a better deal than that for what amounts to unskilled labor. Here are some more numbers, and while the average wage isn't $15 an hour, it's far above the statutory minimum.
I feel pretty much like one shopper who ignored the strikers outside his favorite store:
Indeed, although most people appeared sympathetic to the strikers, yelling out support or honking their horns, some gave them a thumbs down or called them names as they passed by.Somehow, I have a feeling this strike will have about as much effect as the transit worker strike in 2000: no one will care.
"The gravy train is over," yelled one man, as he strode from the Eagle Rock store, not wanting to be interviewed.