(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — Grocery workers are standing up to protect good jobs with affordable health care at supermarkets across the country today. Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union in multiple cities are outside of major supermarkets communicating with customers in support of the 26,000 Safeway and Ahold workers in Baltimore, Md., and Washington, D.C., who may be forced on strike because the companies refuse to offer a fair contract that reflects their success.
Supermarket giants Safeway and Ahold, owner of Giant Foods in the metro Washington, D.C. area, are refusing to provide access to affordable health care and living wages their employees have earned. This race to the bottom hurts communities who often have to bear the impact from greedy corporations that force hard-working families onto social services for basic needs.
Workers are taking action and reaching out to customers at Safeway and Ahold-owned stores coast-to-coast today, from Southern California and the Puget Sound to Chicago and along the East Coast.
UFCW members at Safeway-owned stores, Dominick’s and Genuardi’s, and Ahold-owned Stop & Shop stores are concerned about the companies’ bargaining agenda and how it could hurt the industry.
“Safeway and the other big grocery chains already reached agreements with workers in other parts of the country that provide affordable health care and decent wages. It’s really important that these companies treat all of its employees fairly,” says Melissa Champion, UFCW Local 21 member and Seattle Safeway employee.
Caitlin Lawson, UFCW Local 328, works at Ahold-owned Stop & Shop in Massachusetts. She said, “When we were fighting for health care and decent wages for part-timers, the workers in Baltimore and Washington took a stand with us. Now I’m proud to let my company know that I’m still in this fight for a fair contract for all supermarket workers.”
The contract covering workers in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore expires on March 29, 2008. Over the past 18 months, UFCW members have mobilized in unified actions to support supermarket bargaining. The central website, www.groceryworkersunited.com, has been a focal point for solidarity actions and coast-to-coast UFCW member solidarity.
Just this week, a grocery worker from Chicago posted a message to UFCW members on the East Coast encouraging solidarity. Jeff, a UFCW Local 1546 member, wrote, “Remember you are fighting not only for your contract talks, but for the rest of them across the nation. We will be watching here in Chicago because we will be starting grocery talks with Safeway near the end of the year.”
The actions today are the latest steps in the national unity bargaining movement among UFCW members working in the grocery industry. The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers, with nearly one million in the grocery industry.