Monday, March 8, 2010

The Growing Irrelevance Of The UFCW

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.


  1. I've only belonged to one union and they were basically worthless. They couldn't strike and therefore had little teeth.

  2. The worker gets squeezed from every side it seems.

  3. The company I used to work for is a union shop and to make it worse - Georgia is a "right to work state" so that means that the union represents non-dues-paying employees, too. It made for lots of tension during contract negotiation time.

  4. I would think that with our nattional unemployment at about 10% people would just be grateful to have such good jobs in the first place.

  5. David: Sounds like the unions in state government. Since the right to strike (such as it was) was legislated away, we really are bit long in the tooth. So the only thing we really can do, is save bad workers from getting fired, and making sure that good workers get screwed.

    Charles: They certainly do. While the overall content of the post sounds quite negative, I really do feel for those workers. In my opinion, I believe that the union leadership really wasn't being forthright or honest with their members.

    Lynn: We have a similar thing here in state government. The unions represent both dues and fees paying members, as well as to a lessor degree, confindentials (which are non-union workers who primarily work in Human Resources). It can be difficult at times, but so long as you don't really care how a contract is played out, there really is no advantage to being a dues paying member.

    Jannie: I think that's what really brought it home for the workers. The economy is so bad right now, that no one here in this state (uemployment about the national average or so), that people that otherwise wouldn't cross a picket line, would if it meant having money in the pocket to feed the family and pay the bills.

  6. I agree with Jannie. Having a job, and a good paying one, in this economy should be enough.

  7. Talon: It should be, but sometimes, private sector union leadership often things with their wallets instead of their heads.

  8. I'm a former state worker, and you are absolutely right on this!

  9. Another general comment about the post: All of the info given by Joe State Worker is 100% the absolute truth. This was negotiated in early 2009, when the hole in the state coffers was about $800 million.

    Mama Z: Unfortunately, sometimes I really hate to be right.

    This is one of those times.

  10. As you may've heard, MA state requires health care for all residents. I however, fit thru the tax-form penalty loophole for not having enough income to pay for the premiums. My company pays 50 percent of the premiums. Individual now is almost $65 per week out of checks, n the whopper family plan is now over $1250 bux per Month- That employees must pay besides 50 office n script co-pays, $250 ER deductables. Rip-off!

    Then to boot-that co, BCBS- won't pay towards my allergy cost anymore if I were on, because there's a 10k cap per illness I used up already staying alive...

  11. That sucks big time.

    I know for here, for the past couple of years our geniuses at the General Assembly have tried to open up our insurance pool (state workers) to the local municipalities so they might be able to get similar rates that we have.

    The unfortunate thing (or fortunate, depending on how you look at) is that the insurances companies said, "Do that, and that allows us to reopen the contracts and unilaterally impose higher rates."

    Which effectively negates any and all savings that might be had.

  12. Me thinks I need to go get a job at Stop & Shop.

  13. I would like to work there again for a second job, but alas, my mouth got me into trouble some 20 years ago and now I'm persona non grata there.


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