FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Grocery Unions Under Attack

 

The grocery store strike in Los Angeles County is only a harbinger of things to come. There are at least two strikes in LA for which healthcare is the key issue, and there are many smaller worker struggles in which the price of healthcare is central. The grocery story strike is primarily one of healthcare and the union members are being slandered daily in the LA Times by the ads the chains are running. Let’s take a look at their arguments.

First myth: WAL MART is killing the chain groceries. This myth is based on Wal-Mart’s announcement that it will open 40 hybrid grocery and general merchandise Supercenters in Southern California over the next several years.

Truth: By Wal-Mart’s own press release, when completed those stores will control about 1% of the area’s grocery market.

Second myth: The economy is hurting margins. Just look at the stock price, down so much even though the market has rallied. Look at the employment figures. All those out of work people are spending less on necessities.

Truth: Southern California has actually been adding jobs at a rate above the national average, many of these due to war spending, so crucial to this region dependent on military contractors. The three dominant chains-Vons, Albertson’s, and Ralph’s- taken together, have seen profits increase 91 percent over the past five years. Two and half of those years were recessions. The real danger is that military spending will not be sustainable.

Third Myth: Health Insurance rates are so high, the company can not absorb the increases. As result, we must shift this burden on to the employee.

Truth: UFCW grocery store baggers start at $6 per hour. The most experienced workers who oversee departments make about $17.90,. The average wage is between $12 and $14 per hour, according to the UFCW. An increasing number of these workers are not allowed to work a full 40 hours.

Compare this with the executive compensation of Safeway, the parent of Vons and Pavillions.

Safeway’s president, chairman and CEO Steven A. Burd received $1,000,000 in salary in 2002. His bonus was a paltry $258,000.

To put this into perspective, the company says workers must pay $15 a week for family healthcare insurance (or $60 a month). If Mr. Burd were to accept only half his 2002 earnings and assuming he could find some way to live on $600,000 a year. He could pay the healthcare expenses of 873 workers’ whole families for a full year.

Now, Safeway executive VP Larree M. Renda made $674,000 in salary and bonus for 2002. Vasant M. Pabhu, Executive VP and Chief Financial Officer made 1,173,000 in total compensation. Richard W. Dreiling and Bruce L. Everette, both also Executive VPs made over $650,000. Lawrence V. Jackson, Senior VP, made $627,000.

If each of these executives took the same 3% from their salary, 158 employees’ entire families could have health insurance. Keep in mind, not all these employees need healthcare for a family. For single workers, a 3% pay cut in these executive salaries would cover 438 workers. A 50% pay cut in Mr. Burd’s salary could pay healthcare for 2419 single workers.

Now, asking these executives to live on 3% less is unreasonable. It is far too modest. And there are surely many other management level executives who could afford a 3% pay cut with hardly blinking.

It seems to me that if business competition was hurting profits-which it clearly is not-there would be less to actually manage. You could easily cut a few executives from the payroll.

Baring this, however, there seem two solutions. Universal healthcare, which is responsible for longer life spans in Europe, would take this issue off the shoulders of workers, at least in terms of contract negotiations. Strikes over health insurance about which at least two are going on in LA County would be unnecessary, though taxes would be needed to cover the new program. A progressive tax to cover the program could easily be set up in which workers paid 1% of their salaries for universal healthcare while executives paid say 3%

Even better would be legislation that required company executives to cut their salaries by some reasonable level before cutting the wages of workers. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but in Japan this sort of thing happens without legislation, simply out of custom.

STANDARD SCHAEFER is free-lance journalist and working writer in Pasadena, CA. He teaches in the Graduate Writing Program at Otis College of Art. He can be reached at ssschaefer@earthlink.net.

 

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
January 24, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
A Letter From Iowa
Jim Kavanagh
Aftermath: The Iran War After the Soleimani Assassination
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Camp by the Lake
Chuck Churchill
The Long History of Elite Rule: What Will It Take To End It?
Robert Hunziker
A Climate Time Bomb With Trump’s Name Inscribed
Andrew Levine
Trump: The King
Jess Franklin
Globalizing the War on Indigenous People: Bolsonaro and Modi
James Graham
From Paris, With Tear Gas…
Rob Urie
Why the Primaries Matter
Dan Bacher
Will the Extinction of Delta Smelt Be Governor Gavin Newsom’s Environmental Legacy?
Ramzy Baroud
In the Name of “Israel’s Security”: Retreating US Gives Israel Billions More in Military Funding
Vijay Prashad
What the Right Wing in Latin America Means by Democracy Is Violence
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Biden’s Shameful Foreign Policy Record Extends Well Beyond Iraq
Louis Proyect
Isabel dos Santos and Africa’s Lumpen-Bourgeoisie
Nick Pemberton
AK-46: The Case Against Amy Klobuchar
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Promtheus’ Fire: Climate Change in the Time of Willful Ignorance
Linn Washington Jr.
Waiting for Justice in New Jersey
Ralph Nader
Pelosi’s Choice: Enough for Trump’s Impeachment but not going All Out for Removal
Mike Garrity – Jason Christensen
Don’t Kill 72 Grizzly Bears So Cattle Can Graze on Public Lands
Joseph Natoli
Who’s Speaking?
Kavaljit Singh
The US-China Trade Deal is Mostly Symbolic
Cesar Chelala
The Coronavirus Serious Public Health Threat in China
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Must Remain Vigilant and on Guard Against US Hybrid Warfare
Robert Fantina
Impeachment as a Distraction
Courtney Bourgoin
What We Lose When We Lose Wildlife
Mark Ashwill
Why Constructive Criticism of the US is Not Anti-American
Daniel Warner
Charlie Chaplin and Truly Modern Times
Manuel Perez-Rocha
How NAFTA 2.0 Boosts Fossil Fuel Polluters, Particularly in Mexico
Dean Baker
What Minimum Wage Would Be If It Kept Pace With Productivity
Mel Gurtov
India’s Failed Democracy
Thomas Knapp
US v. Sineneng-Smith: Does Immigration Law Trump Free Speech?
Winslow Myers
Turning Point: The new documentary “Coup 53”
Jeff Mackler
U.S. vs. Iran: Which Side are You On?
Sam Pizzigati
Braggadocio in the White House, Carcinogens in Our Neighborhoods
Christopher Brauchli
The Company Trump Keeps
Julian Vigo
Why Student Debt is a Human Rights Issue
Ramzy Baroud
These Chains Will Be Broken
Chris Wright
A Modest Proposal for Socialist Revolution
Thomas Barker
The Slow Death of European Social Democracy: How Corbynism Bucked the Trend
Nicky Reid
It’s Time to Bring the War Home Again
Michelle Valadez
Amy Klobuchar isn’t Green
David Swanson
CNN Poll: Sanders Is The Most Electable
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Our Dire Need for “Creative Extremists”—MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
Jill Richardson
‘Little Women’ and the American Attitude Toward Poverty
David Yearsley
Watching Star Wars in Berlin
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail