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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Capitol Hill Rally for UFCW, 5/12

Ivan, writing in a Daily Kos diary, describes today's pro-UFCW rally at the Capitol Hill Safeway (corner of 15th and John):

"The sergeant in charge asked that that the sidewalk be cleared so pedestrians could get by. The demonstrators complied. He asked that Robby surrender his mic. Robby complied (he has never needed a mic). When Robby continued, in his well-practiced stentorian tones, the sergeant told him he was under arrest and cuffed him.

I was two feet away, and I can report faithfully that the arresting officer never told Robby what the charge was. Only hours later did they say it was "obstruction."

Now, this came out of nowhere. Typical SPD overkill, it is unfortuately a fact of life in Seattle that the police enjoy making arbitrary and somewhat stupid decisions. But what was really interesting was the reaction not just of Steve Williamson of the KCLC, but of the Safeway PR dude:

"Steve Williamson of the King County Labor Council tried to go inside to negotiate with the cops. Safeway PR man Frank Jorgensen joined them. Jorgensen told me later that the arrest had baffled him; that this was the last thing Safeway needed. We found that the cops had slipped Robby out the back door and hustled him to the West Precinct.

The newspapers showed up. Four TV stations showed up. I listened to their interviews. I was surprised. Two of the Heathers went after the police spokesman and kept asking him: "What made this necessary?" "Why did you feel you had to arrest him?" They wouldn't let up. All the spokesman would say was "It was the judgment of the arresting officer that this was obstruction."

It sounds to me that Safeway, at least, is really worried about bad PR. And there's no worse PR around here than forcing a strike. I may be a bit naive, but I take this as a sign that Safeway is interested in avoiding a strike. The question is, how far are they willing to compromise in order to avoid that?

This post from Ivan also reminds us that if a strike were to happen, those of us interested in supporting the UFCW may have to battle not just Safeway, QFC, Fred Meyer, and Albertsons - but the good ol' SPD as well. But that's OK. I've inhaled their pepper spray before.
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Saturday, April 24, 2004

Workplace Intimidation

Local chains covered by the UFCW contract - Safeway, QFC, Fred Meyer (both of these are Kroeger-owned), and Albertsons have started to advertise for replacement workers in the event of a labor stoppage. Full-page ads were taken out in local papers, including the P-I, and I came across them unsuspectingly yesterday morning. They were jarring, in bold, large letters, and clearly meant to scare workers as well as grab the public's attention.

Now, this was bad enough, an 'unnecessary provocation' as UFCW officials put it. So what do I see when I head down to my local Safeway last night with my girlfriend to buy implements to make manicotti? A big sign, posted right inside the doorway, advertising for replacement workers.

This pissed me off. What is the checker or the stockperson supposed to think when they show up for their shift? It's an obvious case of workplace intimidation - grab the attention of employees who are already skittish about a possible strike. Make them scared, make them worry. And what happens if some unsuspecting young kid, needing some spending money, sees the sign and asks an employee for an application? Can you imagine the pangs of anger and frustration running through that employee as they're smacked upside the head with this?

So I decided to do some guerrilla counter-propaganda. The sign in the store was placed on the other side of a standard store ad for some Mariners promotion. I simply turned the sign around as I walked out of the store.

This morning I drive by to find that Safeway has posted the sign on the door itself. It can't be easily removed now.

Corporations suck.
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This is the inaugural post for the Unofficial UFCW Puget Sound Watch. As contract negotiations intensify and the supermarket chains begin an underhanded quasi-PR campaign, it is my goal to provide news and analysis of the negotiations, and potential strike, from a perspective sympathetic to the workers.

I am not a member or, nor am I affiliated with, the UFCW. I'm just a dude who believes in unions, in the middle-class, and solidarity. Hope you all find this useful.
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