Sunday, April 17, 2011

War Against Workers?

Stop the War on WorkersImage by OnTask via FlickrWhat side do you root for when you don't particularly care for either party involved in a conflict?

This morning, I headed out to do some grocery shopping at my local Giant Food store.  There were a group of people outside of the store passing out flyers and carrying placards that read "Stop the War Against Workers."  One of them approached me but I shook my head no and waved them off.  Part of me wanted to say that I support the war against workers, but I really didn't want to be confrontational.  Actually, they saw where I parked and I was afraid I would come out to a damaged vehicle.

So, when I got home from my little shopping trip, I decided to do a bit of research to see if I could figure out which group of union workers would be protesting outside of Giant.  I knew that the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 400 contract was not due to expire for another year or so.  I found out that the group protesting was the Teamsters Local 730.  Since they were Teamsters, it was probably a good thing that I didn't be a wise ass when I was entering the store.

It turns out that about a year ago, Giant decided to farm out their warehouse operations from their own control to Jessup Logistics LLC, an affiliate of C&S Wholesale.  Giant made the move in an effort to reduce their operating costs by moving the operations to a 3rd party who could run the operation more efficiently.  In the most recent negotiations for a new contract, the C&S essentially told the union that if they did not accept $27million in concessions, they would close the facility and service Giant out of a Pennsylvania warehouse.

As a matter of full disclosure, when I was working in grocery stores, I was a member of a UFCW Local 400, and after I left the stores, I had to deal with C&S when the company that I was working for sent their warehouse operations to C&S for the same reasons that Giant gave; cost savings.  My dealings with both the union and C&S were primarily negative.   I have friends who used to work with C&S, and they did not have positive things to say about their experience there.

My membership in the union was not voluntary, as Maryland is not a right to work state.  I had a job with a local grocery chain who was not unionized when I began working for them.  They became unionized after I started working for them, so I had to join the union.  The one thing that always bothered me about my more strident coworkers was their attitude towards management and the union.  In my mind, I worked for the people who signed my checks; in theirs, they seemed to think they worked for the union.  

I suppose the easy thing would be for me to say a pox on both their houses.  For their part, the Teamsters Local 730 claim on their Facebook page that they got 200 customers to turn away from shopping at Giant this morning.  I was not one of them, nor would I ever be.  I remember one heated contract vote when I was a member of the UFCW.  Several of my coworkers wanted to strike, even though the union recommended accepting the contract.  I had made up my mind that I would go to work in the event of a strike.

Fortunately, I did not have to make the decision to cross the picket line at that time as the contract was ratified.  When I left the union, and took a non-union job within a company that was unionized, there were a couple of occasions when we were going to be required to fill in should the union strike. While I have no great love for C&S, I actually dislike them quite a bit, I think my disdain for the union is greater.  I find it particularly disturbing that the actions of the Teamsters protesting outside of Giant, while understandable, have the potential of hurting their union brethren that are part of the UFCW working at Giant by driving customers away.
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  1. I most definitely have a love/hate relationship with unions. For I love the fact that they keep large corporations from treating their workers as badly as their profit margins would dictate, but I hate the way they go about doing it.

    The best example I have are my own experiences with the Teamsters local here in town. For they had the workers of the Associated Wholesale Grocers warehouse signed-up, and they openly encouraged being downright hostile towards any non-union workers--especially truck drivers. Things got really ugly when AG decided to do what Giant is doing, and we would wait until we had 5-6 trucks there with deliveries before going through the gate.. Thankfully, no one from any trucking company got seriously hurt, to my knowledge.

    I also have what happened to my dad to reflect upon. For he was a member of the Operating Engineers Union for well over 30 years, but they wouldn't lift a finger to help him when his back disintegrated because of it happening over the years instead of being by an accident. Of course, since he had to retire before he was 65, he didn't get a dime of his pension, neither. All of that happened back in the 60's. So, it is nothing new.

  2. I despise unions... At one time they may have served a purpose, but now their free use of violence to get their way is disgusting and deplorable. Unions have become nothing more than legalized racketeering and have driven good honest business into the ground. My father gave his life to the Teamsters. He was always there when they needed him. When he needed help, they did nothing but crap all over him and throw him out like last year's news. I have no use for unions.

  3. When I was in the union, they did very little to protect us. Instead they would tell management that if they wanted to fire somebody, that they would tell management the correct way to go about it. Unfortunately, the union only wants to collect their dues while you can work. Once you can no longer provide them with their stream of revenue, you are of no use to them

  4. I'm a bit torn on this issue. I know unions are formed to defend the rights of employees, but sometimes they go too far and demand too much. But then again, some owners do abuse their workers.



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