We’re entering our third calendar year of the COVID pandemic, and while our circumstances aren’t as chaotic as they were when it all began, our members still have plenty to deal with.
In a situation few would have predicted a year ago, our country is coping with a massive labor shortage. Employers are begging for workers to help them keep up with pent-up demand.
Meanwhile, container ships are circling our harbors, waiting for an opportunity to dock. And when they finally have a chance to do so, there aren’t enough truck drivers to take their goods to distribution centers inland. Those distribution centers are looking for workers, too.
All this resulted in shipping delays and some scarcities in the stores during the recent holiday season. Many restaurants and other service-sector business are curtailing their hours due to a lack of staff.
Here in UFCW 8’s jurisdiction, Raley’s announced it is closing its Market 5-ONE-5 store in Sacramento less than four years after it opened. A company spokesperson attributed the closing to, in part, “an absence of daytime workforce”. Two Nob Hill stores in the Bay Area also are closing.
So, what’s going on here?
The pundits call it the Great pandemic shutdowns forced millions away from their workplaces and into their homes.
Some of them remain fearful of COVID-19, especially the Omicron variant. Others have found alternative ways to make a living, like selling things through the Internet. But the overriding factor for most of them appears to be dissatisfaction with the wages, benefits and working conditions of their prior jobs.
The Union advantage
It’s no secret many American workers have gotten the short end of the stick over the past 40 years. Stockholders and corporate executives have gotten rich, thanks to several waves of tax cuts favoring the wealthy. At the same time, a precipitous decline in Union membership since the 1980s has left most workers without a Union to represent them, powerless to demand their fair share of the profits they help make for their corporate employers.
Fortunately, members of UFCW 8-Golden State are not in this sad situation. They have a strong Union which stands up for their rights at the workplace and negotiates contracts with some of the best wages, benefits and working conditions in the industries and areas we serve.
A job with a UFCW 8 contract is still worth getting – and keeping.
This is not to say we can’t do better especially in this historic time when workers have the upper hand.
In recent months, this Union has been negotiating new contracts with the major supermarket employers in Northern and Central California. Similar talks are coming up for our members in Southern California as well. In each and every case we are determined to win the wages and benefits our members earn and deserve.
The employers know you have served them well through the pandemic, working at great risk to yourselves and your families during a time of disease, stress and social uproar. Your hard work and dedication on the front lines were crucial to their making huge profits.
What’s more, the employers are in no position to make unreasonable demands and say, “Take it or leave it!” They need you. It’s time to get what you need from them.
In the coming months we will be calling on you to stand together for a better life for yourselves, your co-workers and your families. Please be prepared to answer the call.