Brothers and Sisters,
As you probably have seen in the news, the contracts between Southern California’s grocery workers and the major supermarket chains are due to expire soon. Three years ago the supermarket chains locked out their workers for 141 days in an effort to break the union. While the UFCW survived the lock-out and saved benefits for current employees at the time, the chains insisted on and got a two-tier wage system that imposed massive wage and benefit cuts on new employees.
The argument at the time was that Wal Mart and Costco were increasing market share and that the two-tiered system was a necessity to save Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons from being overwhelmed by their big box competitors. Living wages and family benefits, the chains claimed, were simply economic impossiblilties.
Three years later, that assertion has been proven wrong as the market share of Wal Mart and Costco has actually decreased since the current contract was signed. Despite this development and the fact that Ralphs, Vons, and Albertsons are raking in record profits of $3 billion each, the chains are still refusing to eliminate the two-tiered system in the new contract. In contrast, Stater Brothers, with an annual profit of $26 million found that it was possible to eliminate the two-tiered system and give their employees wage and benefit increases.
It is clear that Ralphs, Vons, and Albertsons, with their much larger profits can afford to treat their workers with the respect and dignity they deserve and eliminate the two-tier system which will eventually transform what were once solid blue collar jobs into yet another dead end for the working poor. It will also add to the ranks of the millions of Americans wtihout affordable health care coverage. As public sector union workers with good health care, job security, and pensions, it is our moral obligation to support our union (and non-union) brothers and sisters who are struggling to save living wage jobs with health benefits in what has become an increasingly hostile economic environment for working and middle class American families.
Please visit www.respectufcw.com to get current information on their negotiations, sign a petition supporting the grocery workers, and find out how you can help. AFT stands behind the grocery workers because their fight is our fight. As more private sector employees lose middle class wages and benefits, the political pressure to go after our own becomes stonger. It’s time we got the ball rolling in the other direction and stood up for living wage jobs and health care for all Americans.
Please forward this message to your friends and family members.
Jim Mahler, President
AFT Guild, Local 1931