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Latest News - March 2012

March 20, 2012
Safeway Workers Protest "Scab" Hiring Sites, Management Attacks on Worker Living Standards
Source: The Sacramento Bee

Calling the company's actions an assault on their collective bargaining rights and living standards, Safeway workers today held protests in front of three pop-up storefront hiring halls set up next to company stores to recruit and train so-called "replacement workers" to staff the supermarkets in the event of a work stoppage.

The workers — members of United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 — also condemned management intimidation of employees for exercising their free speech rights to express their views on bargaining and what they want in a new contract. The current collective bargaining agreement expires March 31.

"Safeway is earning record profits and sitting on a pile of $180.5 billion in cash, yet rather than share the fruits of our labor with the workers who made their success possible, the company is trying to drive down our members' economic standing — in many cases, even below the poverty level," said Local 400 President Tom McNutt.

"Management might think that setting up scab hiring halls right next to the stores where our members work will intimidate them into accepting a contract that puts the American dream far beyond their reach, but instead it's had the opposite effect," McNutt said. "We are more united than ever and more dedicated to doing whatever it takes to ensure that retail jobs in the Washington, DC, area create a ladder to the middle class with health and retirement security."

The Safeway employees handed out flyers urging customers to express their support for the workers to store managers and also talked with job seekers about joining Local 400 to prevent the company's divide and conquer strategy from lowering all workers' living standards. They expressed frustration with the company's scorched-earth approach to bargaining but resolve in accepting nothing less than a fair contract.

"I've been letting my co-workers know we have no power if they do not stick together," said Vivion Sigouin, who works in inventory control for Safeway. "I've been letting management know we will strike or do what is necessary."

Daryl Graham, a Safeway deli manager, said he fears Safeway intends to "lock us out and force the proposals down our throats."

Natalie Bolling, a Safeway food clerk, expressed her hope for a fair contract. "It would truly improve the morale," she said. "Maybe then we can finally get the respect we deserve."

"Safeway has a clear choice," McNutt said. "The company can recognize its workers are essential to its success, treat us as partners and negotiate a fair contract, or it can harass, intimidate, retaliate and ultimately kill the goose that's laying its golden eggs. With only 11 days left, I certainly hope the company comes to its senses soon."

UFCW Local 400 represents 40,000 members working in the retail food, health care, retail department store, food processing, service and other industries in Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.



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