Tuesday, June 16, 2009

To Cross, Or Not To Cross

I was going to write about the Palin/Letterman "controversy" but then I decided that Palin was making me angry with her feigned outcry- after Letterman has already apologized- and it is all just a publicity stunt for her and is rediculous, so I will let somebody else tackle that one!
Let me start out by saying that I am a unionist through and through- the teachers union saved my job my first year of teaching when a student plagiarized a paper, his parents threatened to sue me, and the principal asked for my resignation because I refused to back down. Because of this incident, I have been faithful to the union ever since- attending rallies, conferences, negotiations, mediations, etc. I love unions- I LOVE what they have done for our country. I love 40-hour workweeks and weekends and paid vacations- all of which came about thanks to unions. Which is why it is so strange that I am so conflicted at this time.

I do not know if it is nationwide- and I apologize if it is not and you don't know what I am talking about- but our grocery union (Kroger foods) is considering going on strike because they are being asked to take cuts in benefits and pay. I am not sure of all the details. I am conflicted because never in a million years would I think to cross a picket line- but in this instance, I am at odds in my feelings towards this strike. I have two opposing thoughts:

1. We are in a recession. Many people are being asked to make cuts in their benefits and pay, and most people are grateful just to have a job. It is hard for me to sympathize with them.

HOWEVER....

2. Grocery stores are typically recession-proof. People still have to eat, and often they are eating out less and therefore buying more from stores, not less. Part of me wonders if the CEO and managers are using the recession as an excuse to make cuts, even though they don't need to- a way to force the "all powerful evil union" to give up some of their power, even though they might be making great profits (I do not know if they are or not, but I could see them using the economy as an excuse).
Of course, a more practical problem is this: I still need to buy groceries! Where will I buy them if not from a grocery store? I am ADAMENTLY opposed to shopping at Wal-Mart because of their huge anti-union stance, and I will absolutely NOT shop there, and that leaves me with very few options.


So here's the question: Cross the picket lines, or support the union?

8 comments:

Bryce and Mandy said...

I agree with you about the Palin/Letterman thing. Totally blown out of proportion...

anyway...

I haven't heard anything about this. Everyone seems to be taking pay cuts (my hubby being on of them) but we are just happy he still has a job. So, I don't think it is unreasonable for it to happen to the grocers since it is happening to everyone else. I don't like it but why are they special and not have it happen to them?

But, it does depend on the second thing you brought up. You should probably find out if they have released their profits and losses so they can prove they are losing money. You would think they would have posted that info. Maybe they are losing money because people can't afford them anymore and are switching to cheaper markets. I know that is happening here with Albertsons.

Finding out that info would probably help you make that decision.

Ben and Christina said...

OK, I did some research. Apparently Kroger foods has had great profits, but they are saying they can't give the same benefits as they used to because of stores like Wal-Mart who are able to undercut their prices because they offer absolutely no benefits to their employees (why I hate Wal-Mart). I can see both sides...this is getting tougher, not easier.

Jewel said...

I also do not like to shop at wal-mart and Target is not much better. I do believe that these stores have cut into the grocers' profits at least a bit. I am hoping that it won't come to a strike. Years ago, a strong union also stood up for me and saved my job, more than once.
I have heard that one of the big issues is retirement. The management is asking it to be pushed back because they lost money in the stock market just like everyone else and need time to make it back to fund the accounts. I think that this is an issue that should be conceded. On other things like pay and health benefits though I say no way! Try going to wal-mart and see what kind of service you get and then go to a REAL grocer and see how helpful the employees are. It's like being in a different world!

Ben and Christina said...

Excellent point about the retirement! I agree with you- I know I would be angry to have to concede the retirement age, but I do understand why at least for right now it is important. Otherwise, the pension could be lost for the younger workers, which also isn't right.

Danielle and Jason said...

Chris - Kroger doesn't own ALL the grocery stores. Thy are related to Smiths/Fred Meyer/QFC (those are the ones I know of). You could just always switch to Safeway, Albertsons - I really don't know what you have there.
It's hard to say if there's really a profit issue. I know the cost of food has gotten a lot more expensive because of higher fuel costs, government regulations, etc. and the stores can't exactly jack up their prices to account for all of this because of aforementioned recession. Perhaps that's where the profit-loss is happening.

Lula O said...

Fair warning - unless you coupon expect to pay almost three times as much at Albertsons. Unfair but soooo true. For me, the pocket book wins. I go where it's cheapest, plain and simple, and I usually end up shopping across the board at a multitude of stores. Did anyone else notice how food prices went up when gas did and when it went down the food stayed as it was? Huh? Who made that pile of money I wonder. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out.

Your Favorite Friend said...

Unions are responsible for prices being driven up. Grocery stores have to keep a certain profit margin. It's all about the margin, not the dollar amount of profit. My dad was a Safeway store manager and was sued by the union on at least one occasion. He fired a worker for faking a work injury. The union's position was that even the guy faked the fall down the stairs, it did cause an injury. Regardless of the way it happened, faked or not, the store should pay! When walmart went in across the street from his store he suffered a bit. You know what he did? He put Milk on sale EVERY DAY for .99! He was back in profit immediately. King Soopers is doing the same thing...milk for $1.58! That keeps people going to their store rather than the others.

Unions are good to protect worker's rights. But I don't like when they get involved with demanding higher wages when they're not entirely deserved. I HATE that commercial with the grocery workers whining about their ALREADY higher than state average wages and benefits! I took a 10% pay cut and eventually was laid off due to the recession and here these people are on tv whining about how they're being treated. Unions are the big reason our Auto companies failed. Their production costs are 3x that of Toyota, Honda, and other foreign companies. When Toyota opened up manufacturing in the US they went to states that did not allow workers to form unions. Studies show that if GM and Chrysler had not been located in union states, they wouldn't have needed to be bailed out! If grocery workers start getting higher wages and more benefits in a recession, who knows, we'll be hearing Obama say something like "If we don't bail out the grocery industry tomorrow, it will be the end of groceries as we know them. Americans will be faced with growing their own groceries and it will be very very bad...so let's spend billions on the grocery stores!"

Curt

Ben and Christina said...

I agree with most of what you said, Curt, until you said it was the unions fault that the automakers failed, etc. etc. I always wonder why it is the unions fault, and not the CEO's who are totally overpaid-That doesn't sit well with me. AND the auto unions have made HUGE concessions, which nobody seems to want to talk about. Plus, if those workers didn't have a union and therefore didn't have benefits, who would pay for their health care, retirement, etc? We would- via taxes. Just like with Wal-Mart workers- we pay so much more via taxdollars supporting their health care, and some of them are also on welfare, then what people save by shopping there. Thank goodness for unions to help keep our taxes down! I will admit that many companies do treat their employees well- Lockheed is one example. But, the reason Ben gets paid as well as he does is because part of Lockheed is unionized and they negotiate everyone's salary.

But, I will admit that the commercial you are talking about is not doing them a favor- it is very annoying.