A federal grand jury indicted Ralphs Grocery Co. yesterday on charges that it rehired nearly 1,000 locked-out employees using phony names during the bitter labor dispute two years ago.
The supermarket chain, which is owned by Kroger Co., locked out its employees in October 2003 after Southern California grocery workers voted to strike Safeway's Vons and Pavilions chains. Albertsons also locked out workers. |link|
The grocery strike, you may recall, was the largest such strike in American history and was a clear loss for the UFCW. Here's what I wrote on the night the settlement was announced.
The strikers, even if their health benefits aren't cut substantially, have lost five months of income. While it's true that some earned strike pay by walking the picket lines, that money didn't match their normal income. Assuming that a two-tier wage system is installed, don't be surprised if the strikers find themselves slowly pushed out the door by managers eager to reduce labor costs.
Any new employees are going to be on the bottom tier of the pay scale, so they will be consigned to the working poor. Count them among the losers. |link|
If convicted, Ralph's faces the prospect of huge fines and may have to pay restitution to some workers. That's a start, but it's not enough. By its illegal actions, Ralph's harmed more than individual workers. They also did great damage to the organization charged with looking out for the interests of those workers. The envisioned penalties do nothing to address that damage, and the upshot is that Ralph's gets to keep the gains in relative bargaining power that it won through fraud.
Which reminds me of something that Nathan Newman wrote a few days ago. I'll make the first paragraph of his post the final word here. Follow the link.
Even most liberals deny anti-union crime is widespread or deny that it's even a serious crime at all and anyways the folks doing it are such swell people, we can't expect us to like treat them like criminals, do you? If unions have been decimated in American workplaces, it's must really be their fault-- they must have been asking for it. You know, when you wear such pretty medical care and pension funds, employers are just being normal, red-blooded capitalists when they wipe out unions to get at them. |House of Labor|