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November 03, 2003

REPUBLICANS FOR LABOR....It's nice to see that there are Republicans out there who support the supermarket strike here in California. Larry Miller in the Weekly Standard explains why he not only supports the strike, he's even walking a picket line these days, and both Ralph Luker and Josh Chafetz register agreement. There's nothing about being a conservative that inherently makes you anti-worker, after all. At least, there shouldn't be.

One note, however: even Miller makes the mistake of saying that the big sticking point in negotiations is the five bucks a week that management wants workers to pay for health insurance, and if that's all it was you might well wonder whether the union was being completely pigheaded. But while it's true that healthcare is the main issue in the strike, management also wants to freeze wages for current employees and reduce wages and benefits dramatically for new employees. What's more, the increase in healthcare costs is considerably more than five bucks. Who picks up the slack? Taxpayers, as these folks become eligible for MediCal.

This strike is about a helluva lot more than five bucks a week.

Posted by Kevin Drum at November 3, 2003 09:35 PM | TrackBack


ok, but meanwhile, read this fascinating article from the WaPo regarding Saddam's actions before and at the start of the war. Lots of Tariq Aziz, insuations that the French and Russians told Saddam they'd block us from invading at the UN, etc.

Posted by: praktike at November 3, 2003 09:44 PM | PERMALINK

He was funny in "Waiting for Guffman," so he can't be 100% bad.

Posted by: John G at November 3, 2003 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

As employees without healthcare use MediCal, the major shortfall gets shifted to higher rates for the rest of us. In other words, businesses that may be getting their asses kicked in the free market take it out on their employees, and shift costs to their more competent competitors.

What is manly or patriotic about that? Why should good companies subsidize would-be bottom dwellers?

Just a few days ago, MediCal cut reimbursements for pediatric office visits from $26 to $14. Unless all of the pediatricians go under, the shortfall will be shifted to the shrinking number private insured.

Don't cross the line.

Posted by: pacific_john at November 3, 2003 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

We switched away from Safeway when this labor stuff started, even though it's going on in southern CA and we're on the bay peninsula. My wife is now going to Trader Joe's for everything, and having to get used to the different selection and learn some slightly different recipes. Trader Joe's is a little weird. But she says she thinks we are saving money.

Most modern grocery stores like Safeway practice price discrimination. If you don't give your consent to be tracked with those stupid cards, the prices are unreasonable. But this makes them great to boycott. When you stop going there, they know it.

Posted by: MillionthMonkey at November 3, 2003 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

I think conservatives (or, to be more precise, pro-free-market ppl) are rarely anti-worker or anti-strike unless the workes strike more than they work (see France).

Posted by: Tomas Kohl at November 4, 2003 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

CBS will issue press release early in morning; Robert Greenblatt, head of SHOWTIME will announce that SHOWTIME will air the telepic. Bob Ackerman the Director has said he will re-edit some portions of the film for SHOWTIME. CBS to write-off $9 million...

Posted by: Smith at November 4, 2003 01:24 AM | PERMALINK

Will the US bomb another place in the Middle East?
U.S. Air Strike in the Middle East imminent?
From Scottish CND, 03.11.2003 23:47

Since Saturday, people in the Highlands of Scotland have been witnessing
large movements of US warplanes overhead. Experienced observers say the
large numbers are reminiscent of those that preceded the bombing of Iraq in
1998 and military strikes on Libyai in the1980’s as well as the first Gulf

At the weekend warplanes were flying over at a rate of roughly one every 15
minutes. As well as watching them from the ground the plane spotters have
also been able to overhear pilots talking by listening to their radio

It is thought that the planes have flown on a route from the US over the
north pole to bases in Europe and the Mediterranean. The size and scale of
the movement suggests that the US may be preparing to strike at a country in
the Middle East in the next week to ten days.

Here is the link:

Posted by: Sean at November 4, 2003 02:44 AM | PERMALINK

"Most modern grocery stores like Safeway practice price discrimination. If you don't give your consent to be tracked with those stupid cards, the prices are unreasonable. But this makes them great to boycott. When you stop going there, they know it."

Posted by: MillionthMonkey at November 3, 2003 11:29 PM

Fill out the form 'properly': First name: John; last name: Smith; address: 123 Main st, Anytown, USA (local zip); etc.

Posted by: Barry at November 4, 2003 03:41 AM | PERMALINK

Actually this is about breaking the union by creating two tiers of employees which the union cannot accept if it wishes to remain an effective collective bargaining agent. Generally such a proposal by management is * intended* to provoke a strike if presented to a strong/united union. In this case management is to blame for the supermarket strike and they deserve whatever losses they reap in the process.

Most labor negotiations are not just about the current contract but two or three contracts down the road.

Posted by: mark safranski at November 4, 2003 06:36 AM | PERMALINK

Why do you refer to this solely as a strike and not refer to the LOCKOUT? As far as I know, only the Vonns are actually on strike - the rest are being illegally LOCKED OUT by management in an overt attempt to break the unions. According to this article", fully half the workers affected are being LOCKED OUT and specifically aren't on strike.
Sorry to be picky, but language and properly charactering what's going on IS important when discussing this stuff.

Posted by: Andy at November 4, 2003 07:08 AM | PERMALINK

Big Blue is scaling back health insurance coverage for their employees. In a small firm of 18 employees, 3 employees have spouses working at IBM. In the past year, 4 other employees have approached us to add coverage due to divorce, a spouse being laid off and a change in coverage at spouse's employer.

Family health insurance premiums are now up to $1,034.75 monthly. This small firm pays 80% of the premium. In January 2003, monthly premiums totalled $6,311.88. In January 2004, monthly premiums will total $10,617.53. This employer in one year will incur an additional $41,334 in employee benefits.

Posted by: miffed at November 4, 2003 07:18 AM | PERMALINK

>Who picks up the slack? Taxpayers, as these folks become eligible for MediCal.

This having taxpayers pick up "the slack" apparently isn't all that new.

Back in the 1980's I read that it was not unusual for NYC's seasonal arts establishments (I believe it specifically related to one of NYC's ballet companies, but that was merely for purposed of illustration) to fire all of its employees at the end of the season, and rehire them at the beginning of the next. Of course, the firing allowed the employees to then go onto unemployment compensation.

So the taxpayers were subsidizing the establish directly, through grants, and indirectly, through unemployment compensation

Posted by: raj at November 4, 2003 07:27 AM | PERMALINK

Safeway is an anti-semitic outfit. And, their stores were always the dirtiest. Though I haven't shopped in one in a very long time. Locally, Ralph's had too many stores, so there's a HOW'S (that?) market. Run by some Hughes people who were bought out by Ralphs, and didn't want to let go of the grocery business, entirely. And, Trader Joe's, conveniently located at Rosemead and Huntington Drive is always a hoot. They carry neat stuff not usually found elsewhere. As to Larry Miller, well it suddenly appears that you can't take the weird out of Hollywood people. They're just 'different.' Like the very rich. Very different. So, on a scale of things you can see why the Kennedy Clan and the Schwartzenegger's enjoy common ground. It's always swept so clean for them.

As to the strike, it is sad. Labor not too skilled to do much else is stuck in low paying, and often demeaning jobs. It's not the employers fault, really. If unions thought their strength would be in their ability to blackmail profitable employers they'd do better than pick on an industry that is notorious for its low margins of profits.

One reason the costs for medical care have gone through the roof has to do with expecting government to provide all the coverage. When that happened, and insurance companies began their paper madness, fighting doctors over fees, we've developed a community service problem. You can make it more expensive. But you can't make it better. And, exactly where are the profits? Doctors fear the lawsuits. Medicine is practiced with one eye on getting sued. It's astronomical now for anyone graduating with a medical degree to even think of opening a private practice. And, the semi-skilled? Isn't it possible that by flattening the field so that all doctors go through the growing pains of learning how to get reimbursed for services curtails what's available in the marketplace?

You can feel sorry for the plight of the poor. And, the semi-skilled. But go ahead. Try and shift the burden to the taxpayer and see what happens.

Because right now American taxpayers have decided to throw "tax and spend" legislators out of their jobs. You don't think so? Okay. Mostly democrats are still confident that money will be found somewhere (painlessly) to pay for everything.

Dream on.

Posted by: Carol in California at November 4, 2003 07:59 AM | PERMALINK

Here in flyover country (St. Louis), our grocery workers' strike / lockout has just ended.

Posted by: Brennan at November 4, 2003 08:52 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with Josh Chafetz . . . the GOP was founded as the party that stood for a man's freedom to negotiate the price of his labor. Unions have a lot of bad features, but private sector unions, at least, serve a useful purpose. Frankly, a lot of Republicans are so anti-union because unions are so anti-Republican, and because public sector unions (which are a huge chunk of the union movement these days) are a whole 'nother kettle of fish.

Posted by: Crank at November 4, 2003 09:47 AM | PERMALINK


"Locally, Ralph's had too many stores, so there's a HOW'S (that?) market. Run by some Hughes people who were bought out by Ralphs, and didn't want to let go of the grocery business, entirely. And, Trader Joe's, conveniently located at Rosemead and Huntington Drive is always a hoot."

Wow, that's my neighborhood! I used to live right there in Michillinda Park. My Mom insists on driving to Hows because of the strike. Since I live over in Westwood now, I end up driving all the way out to downtown L.A.'s food4less to shop (although I think they're owned by the same company as ralphs).

Posted by: Sean at November 4, 2003 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Carol, as someone who worked at one of the chains that is currently locking out their workers, there are a few things that should be pointed out:

The store director(store manager) often makes a 6-figure salary, not to mention bonuses if they make or exceed management targets.

Why not cut down on the bonuses a bit, instead of asking for wage freezes for current and new hires?

Also, working in the grocery business isn't semi-skilled labor. You have to be on your toes to deal with the public, know where everything is on the floor, and deal with problems like shoplifting, spills, falls, etc.

The chain I worked for brought on some of the current problems it has due to its own actions.

A few years ago, they bought out a chain that had been sucessful and around in California for a long time.

They weren't content to just reorganizing the backroom management and distribution channels to conform to their own practices, which is a sensible step when merging two different entities.

They went further and turned all the old chain stores into their own chain name.

The consumer base, which was used to a certain level of service from the old chain, went to other stores to get what they wanted, instead of going to the 'new' store in their area.

The chain previously announced before the merger that they expected pricing to improve, because of the 'economies of scale' to be expected from the increased number of outlets they would have.

Because of the loss of customers who went to the old chain, this never materialized.

Management usually profits from good decisions, and expects the workers to shoulder any burdens due to their bad ones.

Posted by: Dark Avenger at November 4, 2003 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Safeway is anti-semitic? Huh? They don't carry Hebrew National, or what?

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov at November 4, 2003 02:00 PM | PERMALINK

I think I can explain part of why many ordinary non-union Americans have a hard time siding with labor unions. Unfortunately, many of the big union stories have to do with the NFL, NBA, and MLB. Millionaires. Unfortunately, unions of all stripes stick together, and you'll never see the grocery workers union or the auto workers union criticize the players' unions...even as the millionaire players drive around in their foreign cars.

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