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I was driving home from work the other night when I got caught behind a mobile billboard. The billboard was for "Occupy Giant and Safeway." For those that are outside of the Washington DC metro area, Giant and Safeway are the two grocery stores in the market that have the greatest market share in the area. It must be time for the union contracts to expire.
I have a somewhat vested interest in the local grocery industry as that is where I began my working career. Currently, I do the bulk of my grocery shopping at Giant, and, while I didn't get my first job with Safeway, I did work for them for 21 years. I was also a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 (UFCW), those behind this latest "occupy" venture, while working in the stores.
When I started working in the grocery stores, I did not have a choice on whether or not to join the union. Maryland is not a "right to work" state, so I was forced to join. I have to say that I had a different viewpoint than a lot of the people I worked with. I felt my loyalty belonged to the person that was signing my checks each week, while most of the other workers were more loyal to the union. Overall, my experience with the union was not the greatest.
My experience with the union, combined with my business degree has always made me more pro-business in my beliefs, especially after I left the union for a job in the local corporate office. During my years under a union contract, I confess that I made pretty good money. As a part time worker, I had recruiters on my college campus who told me they were afraid to hire me because I would start off making less for them full time than I was making part time.
When Giant, Safeway, and several other companies were all working under the same contract, all the companies were working on a level playing field. Over the years, both companies have faced competition from lower cost operators. As such, their model of doing business has had to change, and subsequent contracts have been not quite as lucrative as in the past, though workers have been grandfathered under terms of their original contracts.
Now, the unions are gearing up for a prolonged contract battle. They want what they consider their "fair share" of the companies' profits. I have checked the Occupy Giant and Facebook blog and Facebook pages and they are pulling out all of the typical class warfare tactics of the left. I saw one post detailing all of the money that Safeway's CEO has received in compensation. Now, while I am no fan of Safeway's CEO for reasons I do not care to elaborate on, I don't and never have cared what he makes.
The current contract between the stores and the union expires at the end of next month. In the event that there is a strike, I will continue to do my shopping at Giant, maybe more so. Having been a grocery worker, I can honestly say that most of the people are unskilled workers that can easily be replaced. In a time when so many are out of work, I have little sympathy for workers who may decide to strike. Hopefully it won't come to that.