October 28, 2004
UFCW members aren’t alone in the fight for affordable health care, as an overwhelming percent of supermarket shoppers surveyed side with their local grocery store workers on employee concerns. The community support is echoed in two recent surveys of grocery shoppers, one conducted in Colorado and one in Washington State.
Both surveys reinforce what UFCW workers already know: communities stand behind workers when it comes to workplace issues, especially health care. The large majority of shoppers agree that grocery store employees “deserve to have affordable health care.” Most shoppers (85%) believe that major supermarkets like Albertsons, Kroger and Safeway are very profitable and have a responsibility to provide workers with affordable health care benefits.
Over 80% in the Washington community said they would support workers on strike if management threatened to eliminate health care benefits. The majority also said they would sympathize with grocery store workers on strike over the employers even if they knew very little about specific bargaining issues. Most shoppers would go out of their way to shop at another store if their local grocery store had employees on strike.
Economic studies show that when large corporations take away or reduce their employees’ health benefits, taxpayers take on the increased costs for workers because more workers are forced to utilize publicly-subsidized health services. More than two-thirds of shoppers surveyed agree that the responsibility for health care cots would indeed float to taxpayers. Even more shoppers agree that workers end up paying for extravagant corporate executive compensation and bonuses.
Last summer, UFCW members in the Puget Sound, Wash. area visited their local communities and informed residents about what was happening at the bargaining table during their contract negotiations. UFCW members collected “don’t shop” pledges from the public if the employers insisted on eliminating affordable health care benefits. They participated in marches and rallies that kept bargaining issues at the center of the public’s attention, and moved elected officials to write letters in support of grocery store workers and voice those opinions to the media. Mobilizing in neighborhoods and solidifying support among community members put key pressure on the grocery stores, ultimately helping 18,000 UFCW members in Puget Sound settle a fair contract.
The survey in Colorado was conducted by TKG Research in August and identified perceptions of worker issues, while the survey in Washington, taken by the Evergreen Research Group in January, recognized early attitudes toward grocery workers, management and possible strikes.