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Friday, November 9, 2012
Nob Hill and Raley's workers still on the lines
I spent some time on the picket lines again today. As I pointed out in an earlier blog, the workers may be out of the store, or most of them as there are some scabbing, but it's not a strike in the sense that there's any real effort on the part of the UFCW leadership or the leadership of the local labor movement to actually shut these places down. Shoppers were going in and out and a number of them weren't very sympathetic. "You're lucky to have a job" was a comment I heard more than once from shoppers going in.
One Union staffer that was there, a person I've known for some time, immediately informed me that the Union's tactic with the shoppers crossing the line was to "kill them with kindness". We have become so accustomed to a passive and non disruptive approach, the idea that we should actually prevent people from crossing picket lines. When we go on strike we are are supposed to feel proud of the fact that we are not actually asking for anything, just to "keep what we have" as one striker put it to a shopper. The idea that we are living in hard economic times is also strong as this is what the bosses tell us and the top Union officials repeat it. But as one worker said when this subject came up, "Our Union officials get raises and decent salaries, they seem to do alright in these difficult economic times." What will encourage workers to honor our lines in these situations and actually join our struggles is if they see that we are fighting for them, that we are fighting for more Union jobs, more benefits and a better life for all workers and our communities.
The idea that no paid Union official should be paid no more than the average wage of the workers they represent was was a popular idea as well as all officials receiving the same strike pay as the workers when they're out on the line.
The Union leaderships argument that the customers are the key to victory (in other words this is a boycott with the workers out on the line) and that they will "agree to shop somewhere else when they are educated about our issues" shows how disconnected they are from the public as well as the needs of their own members. On this line and as I mentioned in the previous blog, so many workers have no benefits and if they do, work three jobs in order to earn enough to pay the rent with one of the jobs hopefully providing some benefits, that they are not so sympathetic to those who do have them. They feel as I said, and not without some justification, that the Unions care only about their own members and do nothing for them. This is not completely true as these days, the Union hierarchy refuses to defend the standard of living of their own members.
The goal of the UFCW hierarchy in this dispute as in all others seems to be the same, damage control.
For local readers there's a Nob Hill in Alameda, also in Walnut Creek and there's a Raley's in Pleasanton.