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in that, one, it was in conflict with California food safety and food handler laws and, therefore, was superceded by the state’s Retail Food Code, and two, by applying only to stores with areas of 15,000 square feet or more, it arbitrarily discriminated against larger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 “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:
May 30, 2016
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy after All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail