FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Court Rules Against Grocery Workers

by DAVID MACARAY

On February 11, a decision was handed down by a Los Angeles County Superior Court that has the potential to negatively affect the lives of California grocery workers. The ruling overturned an ordinance (the Grocery Worker Retention Ordinance) passed in December 2005 by the LA city council requiring large grocery stores to retain the existing workforce for at least 90 days following the takeover of another store.

To anyone who’s been paying attention to what’s been happening lately, the decision should come as no great surprise. From the family leave act to plant closure notification to pressuring the NLRB, Big Business has been challenging employee entitlements at every turn, gradually chipping away at what constitutes the workers’ core set of “rights.” It’s a shocking environment. Arguably, there hasn’t been this much naked hostility and aggression directed toward working people since the 1920s.

Passed by an 11-2 vote of the Council, the GWRO was designed to provide a modicum of job security (continued health care and income) to workers and their families facing lay-off. Under the ordinance store employees had at least 3 months to figure out what their next step would be, should they be laid off as part of the change in ownership. After 90 days the new ownership retained the right to do as they wished-keep the existing workers, or get rid of them.

The GWRO was supported and lobbied for by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a pro-labor, non-profit organization committed to improving the wages and benefits of low-income workers in the city. The Alliance is the same organization that successfully fought to raise the minimum wage at hotels in proximity to LAX-a move, incidentally, that was upheld in a subsequent court challenge (It should be noted that the hotels have asked the California Supreme Court to review their case).

In his ruling, County Superior Court Judge Ralph W. Dau declared the ordinance to be “unconstitutional” in that, one, it was in conflict with California food safety and food handler laws and, therefore, was superceded by the state’s Retail Food Code, and two, by applying only to stores with areas of 15,000 square feet or more, it arbitrarily discriminated against larger (rather than smaller) grocery stores.

Judge Dau wrote, “The city has advanced no justification for treating establishments 15,000 square feet and under differently than larger stores.”

Of course, the obvious argument is that targeting larger stores rather than smaller ones not only reflects a stark reality of the marketplace but appeals to common sense. Big fish eat smaller fish. Big stores gobble up smaller ones. Etc.

To suggest that an ordinance designed to limit the manner in which grocery conglomerates devour smaller stores is “discriminatory” unless it also limits the manner in which smaller grocery stores devour the big ones seems to miss the point.

Not surprisingly, the California Grocers Association (which represents the store owners and managers) praised the decision, going so far as to claim that since the GWRO was initially passed grocery store chains have more or less ceased to expand into the LA area. The Grocers Association depicted the grocery owners as paralyzed-traumatized, terrorized-by the specter of municipal government intrusion.

It’s hard to believe that the prospect of having to keep some employees on the payroll during the transition period would be enough to torpedo a major business deal, but that’s what the Grocers Association claims.

The good news is that, according to reports from the Alliance, it’s almost a certainty that the LA city council will appeal the Superior Court’s decision. While there’s no guarantee the decision will be overturned, it’s good to know the parties have no intention of giving up on it.

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright and writer, was president and chief contract negotiator of the Assn. of Western Pulp and Paper Workers, Local 672, from 1989 to 2000. He can be reached at: dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

 

 

 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 22, 2017
Diana Johnstone
All Power to the Banks! The Winners-Take-All Regime of Emmanuel Macron
Robert Fisk
Hypocrisy and Condescension: Trump’s Speech to the Middle East
John Grant
Jeff Sessions, Jesus Christ and the Return of Reefer Madness
Nozomi Hayase
Trump and the Resurgence of Colonial Racism
Rev. William Alberts
The Normalizing of Authoritarianism in America
Frank Stricker
Getting Full Employment: the Fake Way and the Right Way 
Jamie Davidson
Red Terror: Anti-Corbynism and Double Standards
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, Sweden, and Continuing Battles
Robert Jensen
Beyond Liberal Pieties: the Radical Challenge for Journalism
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Extravagant Saudi Trip Distracts from His Crisis at Home
Angie Beeman
Gig Economy or Odd Jobs: What May Seem Trendy to Privileged City Dwellers and Suburbanites is as Old as Poverty
Colin Todhunter
The Public Or The Agrochemical Industry: Who Does The European Chemicals Agency Serve?
Jerrod A. Laber
Somalia’s Worsening Drought: Blowback From US Policy
Michael J. Sainato
Police Claimed Black Man Who Died in Custody Was Faking It
Clancy Sigal
I’m a Trump Guy, So What?
Gerry Condon
In Defense of Tulsi Gabbard
Weekend Edition
May 19, 2017
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Getting Assange: the Untold Story
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Secret Sharer
Charles Pierson
Trump’s First Hundred Days of War Crimes
Paul Street
How Russia Became “Our Adversary” Again
Andrew Levine
Legitimation Crises
Mike Whitney
Seth Rich, Craig Murray and the Sinister Stewards of the National Security State 
Robert Hunziker
Early-Stage Antarctica Death Rattle Sparks NY Times Journalists Trip
Ken Levy
Why – How – Do They Still Love Trump?
Bruce E. Levine
“Hegemony How-To”: Rethinking Activism and Embracing Power
Robert Fisk
The Real Aim of Trump’s Trip to Saudi Arabia
Christiane Saliba
Slavery Now: Migrant Labor in the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia
Chris Gilbert
The Chávez Hypothesis: Vicissitudes of a Strategic Project
Howard Lisnoff
Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain
Brian Cloughley
Propaganda Feeds Fear and Loathing
Stephen Cooper
Is Alabama Hiding Evidence It Tortured Two of Its Citizens?
Sheldon Richman
The Real Danger From Trump is Ignored
Jay Moore
Learning from History: Resistance in the 1850s and Today
Matthew Stevenson
Down and Out in London and Paris With Macron, May, Trump and Gatsby
David Jaffee
Rolling Back Democracy
Fred Gardner
Irrefutable Proof: Russian Election Meddling Documented!
Jess Guh
Neurology Study Reveals What We Already Know: People of Color Get Worse Healthcare
Joseph Natoli
A Culture of Narcissism, a Politics of Personality
David Rosen
Politics and the Agent of Social Change
Ian Almond
The Secret Joke of Our Democracy: Britain’s Elephant in the Boardroom
Andre Vltchek
Revolution Vs Passivity
Erik Rydberg
Stop the Jordan Cove LNG Project #NoLNG
Vijay Prashad
When Israeli Fighter Jets Almost Killed Nehru
Christopher Brauchli
The Certified Trump
Chuck Collins
Congress Wants to Cut Your Health Care — And Billionaires’ Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail