Disclaimer: I was going to nuke this post and move up a post from the 12th to publish, because I thought that after they voted to ratify the contract on the 7th, this post would be somewhat irrelevant. However, after reading this story from my local liberal newspaper The Hardly Current, I decided to go ahead with the publishing of this post.
After taking a much deserved weekend siesta to recover from the stresses of the week (job interview and burnout), we are back with our first post on the new schedule, and boy is it gonna be a good one. Why, you may ask?
Well, go ahead and ask.
Well, I'll tell you why.
Today's post is about one of my favorite topics, labor unions. And one of my least favorite private sector labor unions is the UFCW aka the United Food & Commercial Workers Union, which is the union of choice in the retail grocery industry.
Presently, they are in contract negotiations (again) with New England's largest retail grocer, Stop & Shop (owned by Royal Ahold). And just like last time in 2007, contract negotiations have turned increasingly bitter. How? Well for one thing, the myopic rank and file have voted to strike. For another, the union is whining about the company's latest contract proposal.
Let's take a look at the two main sticking points that the greedy UFCW has managed to convince their rank & file lemmings...err....members is beneath contempt.
1} Wages: The last known proposal (as of 2/26/10) was that the company was offering no raises in the first year, and only modest increases (or pittances according to the union) in the second and third year. Now, one should note that part time workers are already paid about $1 more than the industry average and that full timers are paid about $4 more than the industry average.
The union says that this is an insult to their hard working brothers and sisters.
Let's look at this from a point of view supplied by Joe State Worker who actually knows something about having to live in the real world. Say Joe State Worker, what say you about this?
"Well sir, I see it like this. My co-workers and I are in the middle of a two year wage freeze. Ya see, the state absolutely loves to balance the budget on us workers, and what better way to get what you want than to threaten wholesale layoffs. So....not only do we have a wage freeze, but the cost of living that we might be getting three months after the fact, will be eaten up by the state. Why? Well sir, it seems that the state is running out of money to pay for all the current retiree's health insurance and pensions, so they came up with the brilliant idea of taking an extra 3% out every paycheck connected to an employee with less than five years of service of aggregate service and every new hire as well. Pluuuuuuuus...the state is looking for even more wage concessions again. And you can't forget the seven unpaid furlough days we're giving back for the next three fiscal years. So pardon me all to hell if I don't have any sympathy for you and your rank and file lemmings."
Another key point is the health insurance. It seems that GASP!!! Stop & Shop want to make THE HORROR!!! employees pay an astounding 10% of their premiums, which works out to an extra $4-$11 per full time employee.
Once again, the union says this is an insult to their hard working fellow brothers and sisters.
What say you on this, Mr. Joe State Worker?
"Well sir, I see it like this. My insurance goes up at the very least 5% every six months. Repeat, every six months. So the company wants to make their employees actually pay for their health insurance. If the employees actually knew what the company was paying for health insurance premiums, they would be singing a different tune. Health insurance premiums are one of the biggest expenses that an employer has in their budget. On the average, they pay anywhere from 70-85% of the total premium for each and every employee. In the case of the state, that works out on the average, to about $10K per employee. That's per employee people. Considering the state has on the average about 48,000 employees, you can see where a big chunk of budget money goes to on a yearly basis."
So what you have here, is a union in denial of the current economic recession that most of the country is going through. Regardless of whether or not the company can afford it, they want to maintain the status quo, and the status quo is raises and no health insurance premiums.
And by the way, a couple of days prior to this post, the union decided to employ the Richie Phillips strategy of negotiating. For those of you who don't remember, Richie Phillips used to be head of the baseball umpires union, and decided to use as a negotiating strategy, mass resignations. Suffice to say, that seriously backfired, as baseball was able to reconstitute the umpire union with people who were more grounded in reality. In this case, the union has announced that it will go on strike if it doesn't get the contract they want from the company.
In a nutshell, you have a company that wants to control costs in a very competitive industry, and a union that is unable to understand the harsh economic realities of the day. If they're looking for sympathy from the general public on this, all they'll get is one big fat giant raspberry.
Hey Mr. Union President sir? That ginormous sucking sound you hear, is your union lemmings being replaced by people who need a job more than they do. 'Course, you don't have to worry about your lifetime job now, now do you?
Guess what gang? That contract they agreed to, was basically the one they rejected back on February 26th. Go figure.