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Two grocery strike picketers arrested trying to file police complain

From the (L.A. area) South Bay "Easy Reader".
Not a very good story and they misquoted me several times but what does
one expect from a publication like the South Bay "Easy Reader".
I have no idea why they arrested me at the Hermosa Beach Police
Station when I tried to file a complaint against a Hermosa Beach Police
Officer.
And where did they get the title: "Angry mob storms police
headquarters "? Actually about 20 of us just walked peacefully up the
public sidewalk to the Police Station to attempt to file a complaint at the
window of the lobby at the Police Station where such complaints are usually
filed. Is that an "Angry Mob"?
Jim DeMaegt
Two picketers arrested at spin-off rally

Angry mob storms police headquarters

by David Rosenfeld

[]
Vons picketers stand in unison at the store on Pier Ave. Photo by David
Rosenfeld

On the 99th day of the supermarket strike, Hermosa Beach Police arrested
one union picketer and an attorney outside police headquarters.

Attorney James DeMaegt, 60, was arrested Sunday on suspicion of obstructing
a police officer and Joshua Hon, 19, was arrested on suspicion of failure
to disperse. Hon's father posted his $500 bail. DeMaegt, who police said
was the main agitator, posted $10,000 bail.

The arrests came after an angry crowd of between 15 and 30 people marched
to the Hermosa Beach police station less than a quarter-mile from the Vons
on Pier Avenue where the group had been picketing.

DeMaegt said he wanted to file numerous complaints against officers who, he
said, did nothing when a Vons customer physically assaulted a picketer and
poured coffee on another.

When protesters would not vacate police premises, officers took action.

"We've tried to be as absolutely tolerant as we can," said Sgt. Paul
Wolcott. "The picketers and the union have asked the public not to cross
their line, but this time, picketers crossed the line with police."

The event marked the culmination of a larger rally that involved about 75
people in front of the store for three hours Sunday, conducting what
picketers referred to as "militant but lawful" protests that include
surrounding shoppers and heckling them.

"During this militant protesting we're more aggressive," Hon said. "We're
trained by lawyers so we know our rights."

Similar rally-type events endorsed by the union have been popping up
throughout the Southland.

Union spokesperson Ellen Anreder said she had not yet heard about Sunday's
arrests.

"We've done significant training and constant reinforcement for non-violent
activities. If you cross the picket line, you're considered a scab no
matter if you're going to work or just to shop. Someone crossing will not
be welcomed with open arms," Anreder said.

Police this weekend received numerous calls from people including a
72-year-old woman in a halo-style neck brace who reported excessive verbal
abuse, Wolcott said.

According to Hon and other eyewitnesses, police officers threatened
picketers with fines if they stepped off the sidewalk, harassed a customer
or followed people to their cars.

One eyewitness said she heard a police officer say he was inconvenienced
and would make someone pay.

Picketer Jay Medina, 27, said police gave those that did not want to get
involved the opportunity to step aside.

"Considering they [picketers] have been on strike for 100 days, I'd imagine
they don't have much nice to say," Anreder said.

Pickets this weekend reached a head throughout the Southland as 15
demonstrators were arrested the same day in Garden Grove when they
allegedly blocked the entrance to a Vons during a protest that drew 1,200.

The strike involving 70,000 grocery workers throughout Southern California
has tested patience on all sides of the picket lines including those in
Hermosa Beach.

"For the majority of the strike we have had a great relationship, with
accommodating and protecting the public," Wolcott said.

DeMaegt, an unofficial union spokesperson and self-appointed agitator,
doesn't mince words. He compared the slow trickle of Vons customers who
don't honor picket lines to the slow acceptance of the holocaust by
Germany's middle class.

"The scab is the lowest form of humanity that ever existed on this earth,"
DeMaegt said.
Grocery Strike at Key Turning Point; The War Over Health Care 24.Jan.2004 07:06

repost

The San Francisco Labor Council is gearing up. ...


> From: OWC
> Subject: Grocery Strike at Key Turning Point; The War Over Health
Care
>
> OWC CAMPAIGN NEWS - distributed by the Open World Conference in
> Defense of Trade Union Independence & Democratic Rights, c/o S.F.
Labor Council, 1188 Franklin St., #203, San Francisco, CA 94109.
> To SUB/UNSUBSCRIBE, contact the OWC at < ilcinfo@earthlink.net>.
> Phone: (415) 641-8616 -- Fax: (415) 440-9297.

> Visit our website at www.owcinfo.org -
> -------------------
>
> IN THIS MESSAGE
>
> 1- "Grocery Strike at Key Turning Point": Letter from Walter Johnson,
> Secretary-Treasurer, San Francisco Labor Council
>
> 2- "The War Over Health Care" --by David Bacon (freelance labor
> journalist)
>
> ********************
>
> LETTER FROM WALTER JOHNSON, S.F. LABOR COUNCIL
>
> January 16, 2004
>
> Dear Trade Unionists and Supporters of Labor Rights:
>
> The strike/lockout fight of the 70,000 UFCW brothers and sisters in
> Southern California is at a turning point.
>
> These workers have been on strike or locked-out at Safeway,
Albertsons
> and Ralphs stores since October 11th. The grocery chains want to
slash
> healthcare coverage for current workers and basically eliminate it
for
> new workers. This strike is really important because if Safeway
> succeeds, it will send a signal to employers in Northern California
and
> throughout the state to slash healthcare coverage. Every one of us
> could be next.
>
> These grocery workers are not striking over $5 to $15 a week in
> health-insurance premiums, like the supermarkets claim. Current
> employees would have to pay $95 a week out of a $12/hour salary for
> healthcare by the 3rd year of the contract. Safeway is trying to
> basically eliminate healthcare for new hires -- going back on its
> commitment to provide good union jobs in our communities -- even
though
> it continues to make huge profits.
>
> If the grocery workers are going to win this fight, they need the
help
> of every union member and every supporter of labor rights, from north
> to south, in escalating the fight for healthcare.
>
> The San Francisco Labor Council is calling on all union members and
> supporters of labor rights in San Francisco and across the Bay Area
to
> step up their support for these embattled workers.
>
> This is what the Council is asking working people to do to support
the
> strike:
>
> 1) Don't shop at Safeway! The S.F. labor movement has targeted
Safeway
> for a boycott campaign. We need to hit this company in the only place
> it understands: its wallet.
>
> 2) Join us at a mass rally and protest at the Safeway on Market and
> Church from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, January 24, 2004. Our goal
is
> to assemble upwards of 500 people. We want to have an idea of how
many
> people can turn out for the rally. Please fill out the Coupon below
to
> let us know you are coming -- and please ask your union or community
> group to make a pledge to bring people to the rally.
>
> 3) Join us on the picketlines at the three targeted Safeway stores in
> San Francisco: Mission & 30th St., Church & Market, and Potrero &
16th
> St. The Council is recommending the targeted times of 4 pm to 7 pm on
> weekdays and 1 pm to 5 pm on weekends -- but any time you can help is
> greatly needed. There are UFCW workers from Southern California on
the
> picketlines during working hours every day of the week.
>
> 4) Help us with phonebanking to union members! We will be doing
> phonebanking for the January 24 mass rally and protest and for daily
> picketline support the evenings of Tuesday thru Thursday, Janaury
> 20-22. Come to the SF Labor Council from 6 pm to 8:30 pm. Our office
is
> located at 1188 Franklin St. #203 (@ Geary).
>
> 5) Contribute to the Strike Fund through the UFCW State Council
(checks
> should be sent to UFCW State Council Strike Fund, PO Box 5158, Buena
> Park, CA 90620).
>
> Join this important fight. By supporting the striking and locked-out
> workers of UFCW, we are defending healthcare for everyone!
>
> In solidarity,
>
> signed/
> Walter L. Johnson
> Secretary-Treasurer,
> San Francisco Labor Council
>
> opeiu3-afl-cio-ab
>
> *******************
>
>
> JANUARY 24 TURNOUT / PICKET SUPPORT / PHONEBANKING COUPON
>
> [ ] I will be at the January 24th Mass Rally & Protest at the Church
&
> Market Safeway.
>
> [ ] My union/community organization will turn out ____ for the
January
> 24th protest action.
>
> [ ] I can do picketline duty on:
>
> Day of Week:
>
> Time Slot:
>
> Safeway Store Location:
>
> [ ] I can do phonebanking at the San Francisco Labor Council on:
>
> ___ Tuesday, January 20
>
> ___ Wednesday, January 21
>
> ___ Thursday, January 22nd
>
>
> NAME:
>
> UNION/ORG:
>
> PHONE:
>
> EMAIL:
>
> (Please fill out coupon and return ASAP to Emily at the SF Labor
> Council at < sflc@sbcglobal.net> and please send us a copy at
> < ilcinfo@earthlink.net>)
>
>
> ********************
>
>
> THE WAR OVER HEALTH CARE
> By David Bacon
>
> LOS ANGELES, CA (1/17/04) -- Today Mark Norton is one of 70,000
workers
> forced on strike, or locked out, in southern California. Soon he may
be
> one of hundreds of thousands more facing the same difficult
predicament.
>
> Across the country, the system for financing health care benefits for
> union workers is breaking down, as managed care drives the cost of
> medical insurance through the roof. Some employers, like Safeway,
which
> owns the Von's store where Norton works, can pay the increases from
> rising profits, but they won't. Whether from greed or economic
> pressure, the growing crisis of this system threatens to make 2004 a
> year of massive strikes and labor wars.
>
> Over 40 million people in the US have no health insurance. That makes
> the benefit Norton is fighting to save not a perk or a luxury, but a
> vital necessity. Protecting it has already cost him three months on
the
> picket line, and promises to cost even more.
>
> Norton went to work for Von's eighteen years ago. By last fall, when
> the strike started, he'd become a grocery manager. That gave him a
> full-time job, earning wages capable of supporting a family, in an
> industry where that's become a rarity. The retail industry nationally
> pays close to minimum wage for most workers, offering jobs with
little
> security to an overwhelmingly young workforce. In this industry,
union
> supermarket workers have been able to maintain a better standard of
> living than most, yet over three-quarters of the baggers, checkers,
and
> stock clerks who make LA supermarkets function have trouble
> accumulating the work hours they need to survive. In a fairer world,
> they would be striking for more fulltime jobs, at higher wages. But
> when Norton walked out of Von's on October 11, it was over Safeway's
> demands to make life even harder.
>
> The chain demanded for the first time that existing employees begin
> paying for their health insurance. "They said they were just asking
for
> $5 a week, or $15 for family coverage. When we did the numbers, it
> turns out it could cost as much as $95 a week by the end of the
> contract," he explains. The average weekly wage for a Los Angeles
> supermarket worker is $312.
>
> In each of the last three years, the premiums charged by private
health
> insurance plans have gone up 15%; the predicted future rise is 12-14%
> annually. Safeway wants to cap it's contribution, which would leave
> workers paying for those hikes.
>
> An even bigger threat was Safeway's proposal to begin hiring new
> workers at lower wages, with an insurance plan most wouldn't be able
to
> afford. Safeway says it wants to pay $1.35 an hour for their medical
> care. The company pays about $5.00 an hour for its current employees.
> If new hires don't go into the existing plan, as the workforce it
> covers grows older, they will become more expensive to insure, and
> their premiums will rise for that reason also. Meanwhile, few new
hires
> will be able to pay the difference between the company's contribution
> and the actual cost of health insurance premiums.
>
> Safeway is offering no wage increase to anyone, and proposes to pay
new
> hires $3.00/hour less, at the top rate. "They want a two-tier system,
> where they can bring in new employees at several dollars less an hour
> with little to no benefits at all," Norton says. "A lot of us believe
> they'll weed out the rest of us once they hire these new employees.
> That's why I volunteered to go to Northern California, to picket
stores
> there."
>
> Once Norton and his coworkers struck, the two other large grocery
> chains in southern California, Albertsons and Ralph's (a division of
> Kroger Stores), locked out their own workers in a common front with
> Safeway. This long-standing practice is now being investigated by
> California Attorney General Bill Lockyer as a possible violation of
> anti-trust laws.
>
> The three chains say they need concessions in order to compete with
the
> world's largest corporation, Wal-Mart. Not only does Wal-Mart pay
close
> to minimum wage, but its health plan is so expensive that most
> employees can't purchase coverage. They get their medical care either
> through another family member working elsewhere, in the local
emergency
> room, or not at all. Wal-Mart's lower wages and benefits have made
the
> company one of the most important organizing targets of the UFCW and
> the AFL-CIO. Nevertheless, a union contract there is still a long way
> off.
>
> Safeway and the other two grocery chains claim Wal-Mart represents an
> immediate threat to their market share. Yet most southern California
> Wal-Marts don't sell groceries, and even if the company carried
through
> on its announced plans to build 40 "super centers" throughout the
> state, it would only gain 1% of its grocery market, compared to the
60%
> held by the big three.
>
> Norton and other strikers extended their picket lines to other areas
of
> the state, where they say they've found a sympathetic public.
> Supermarket workers -- mostly young, and often people of color --
meet
> and talk with store customers all the time. Their predicament bears a
> familiar human face. But solidarity also has another source. This
year
> workers in other unions, from hotel room cleaners to hospital nurses
> and dieticians, are going to face similar demands from their
employers.
> "We're expecting a major confrontation with hotel chains over health
> care costs when our contract comes up this summer," says Mike Casey,
> president of San Francisco's Local 2 of the Hotel and Restaurant
> Employees. The Service Employees Union will be negotiating with
> hospital chains in all major west coast cities this year as well, and
> health care costs will be the number one economic issue.
>
> Northern California's 50,000 supermarket workers are watching with
the
> most concern -- their contract is up in September. "We certainly
expect
> this fight to be on our doorstep then," says Rich Benson, president
of
> UFCW Local 870. "That's why our local unions fully support the
efforts
> of unions in southern California. Safeway has contracts from
Virginia,
> to Colorado, Washington, and Nevada. This is a watershed moment, not
> just for the UFCW, but for the whole labor movement."
>
> The immediate fights this year seem almost unavoidable, but the
> pressure of rising healthcare insurance rates won't stop there.
Unions
> are already spending millions of dollars on strike benefits and
> expenses, with more to come, while workers are bearing the brunt of
> lost wages. The cost could be even higher, if any of these strikes
are
> lost, or unions broken.
>
> California labor took a step towards a longer term solution to this
> problem, by pushing legislation this fall to begin taking healthcare
> costs out of competition. Just before being recalled, ex-Governor
Grey
> Davis signed a bill, SB-2, which requires large employers to provide
> healthcare coverage for their employees. Another bill to establish a
> single-payer system, using the money now spent on health insurance
> premiums to extend care to all Californians, was introduced but
didn't
> come up for a vote.
>
> Unions, which supported the more limited SB-2, will have their hands
> full this year just hanging onto it. Newly-elected Governor Arnold
> Schwarzenegger, speaking for the state's largest employers, has
already
> promised to place an initiative on the ballot to repeal SB-2, and is
> collecting millions of dollars in corporate campaign contributions.
But
> the initiative could backfire. If unions and communities organize a
> coalition powerful enough to defeat him, the momentum could not only
> preserve SB-2, but put single-payer on the agenda.
>
> California corporations are making it impossible for unions and
workers
> simply to maintain the status quo. Instead, employers are gearing up
> for a protracted and interminable war to dump onto them the system's
> rising costs, or force them to do without healthcare entirely. "I'd
> like to ask Steve Burd (Safeway's CEO) at what point in his life he
> stopped caring about people and only about money," Norton asks
angrily.
> "How can he tell his stockholders that putting 80,000 people on the
> street is an investment in their future? No one's going to get rich
> doing our job. We just want to make a living."

Mainstream Assessment of Grocery Workers Strike 24.Jan.2004 07:19

repost

January 22, 2004 E-mail story Print
LA Times column

Michael Hiltzik:
Golden State
Lengthy Strike Shows Evolution of Union Hasn't Kept Up With Rise of Grocery
Giants

The union pickets at my neighborhood Vons were putting up a chipper front
when I visited with them the other night. Earlier that day, the AFL-CIO had
decided to elevate their contract dispute with the supermarkets into a
national cause, and they were chuffed by this vivid, if belated, sign of
labor solidarity.

"We all have our own personal battles," Bob Mitchell, the picket captain,
told me, citing one colleague with school tuition coming due and no
paycheck coming in, and another with a laid-off spouse. "Emotionally,
though, we're tough as nails."

But it was hard not to detect in his words a certain undertone of smiling
through the apocalypse. The dispute, in which the United Food and
Commercial Workers struck the Vons and Pavilions stores of Safeway Inc. and
were locked out by Kroger Co.'s Ralphs and Albertsons Inc., started Oct.
11. It has now stretched on without visible progress for 104 days, or
longer than Wellington needed to chase Napoleon from Elba to Waterloo and
put him permanently out of business.

At this stage, it's impossible to tell when this tussle might end, or how
much the workers might have to concede in a settlement. (It's reasonable to
assume that they'll have to give in on something.) But it's not too early
to judge what the course of the dispute says about the condition of the
American labor movement today: It's pitiful.

The UFCW's regional locals, to start with, vastly underestimated their
opponents in this fight. When talks opened in August, union leaders told
me, they were blindsided by the depth of the cuts demanded by the
supermarket chains in health care and other provisions.

Since then, things have only gotten worse. Union workers not only have gone
without pay, most have lost their health benefits and seen their strike
benefits cut. When the companies came back to the bargaining table in
December after a long siesta, their new offer was worse than their
original. It's estimated that the three chains have forgone more than $1
billion in sales during the fight, but because they record combined revenue
of more than $121 billion a year, it may be a while before they judge their
investment in beating down the unions to be a poor one.

All the while, the unions have been surprised at the three companies'
ability to stay united against the workers. That means they've
underestimated Safeway Chairman Steven A. Burd, who is spearheading the
assault.

"We didn't think Burd had the personality to hold it together," says Greg
Conger, president of Orange County-based Local 324, which represents 13,000
workers at the three companies.

The locals, and their brethren at UFCW headquarters, also have
misunderstood the implications of changes in the supermarket industry over
the last decade or so. Put succinctly, what were once small local chains
have evolved into major corporations.

"Fifteen years ago, we were dealing with regional supermarkets," says Rick
Icaza, president of Local 770 in Los Angeles. "Back then, this strike would
not have taken place, and if it did take place, it wouldn't have lasted 30
days."

But the nationwide consolidation of the supermarket business didn't occur
overnight; it has been going on for most of those 15 years, and by no means
secretly.

The union has not adapted to meet the challenge. The upshot is that a group
of regional bargaining units are overmatched by three nationwide chains,
which can continue raking in profits around the country while their
Southern California locations are bereft of shoppers. Icaza and Conger say
they're surprised at the absence of the collegial we-can-work-it-out
atmosphere that prevailed at negotiations in past contract cycles. Yet
that's what happens when labor policy is made not by executives who live in
the same communities where they've provoked a labor war, but by corporate
bureaucrats ensconced thousands of miles away.

The union locals also failed to communicate the issues clearly to
supermarket customers, especially in the early stage of the dispute. Back
then, the terms of public debate seemed to be dictated by philistines like
KFI-AM (640) talk-radio hosts John and Ken, whom I heard one day
grotesquely misrepresenting the implications of the contract offer on the
air and cracking wise about the union pickets.

It has taken months for the locals to dispose of the canard, promoted by
the supermarkets, that the fight is about asking the workers to pay a
little out of their own pockets for health care, when it's really about an
attempt to sharply reduce the level of health benefits overall, especially
for new hires.

No one's denying that the arcane details of health benefits are difficult
to communicate. But the idea that this contract is symptomatic of attempts
by employers around the country to push health-care costs onto their
employees is easy to grasp. It should have been at the core of the union's
campaign to win public sympathy from the start.

The union should also have worked harder to deflate the supermarkets' claim
that they need labor concessions to battle the incursion of low-wage,
nonunion retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. a threat that is grossly
exaggerated, particularly in California, and in any case dwarfed by the
financial losses that executives such as Burd have incurred through their
own mismanagement.

As a result, the real depth of the public's support for the workers is hard
to gauge. Union leaders contend that the absence of shoppers proves that
the public is behind their members, but no one can say whether customers
are staying away because they feel deeply about the contract issues or
simply to avoid confrontations with the pickets. If it's the latter, then
it will be harder to retain that support for the months that may yet elapse
before a settlement.

One important question is why the national labor establishment has taken so
long to get involved. Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO leader who will take over
national strategy in the supermarket battle, says it was only in the last
month that the AFL-CIO brass recognized its "significant strategic
importance to the labor movement."

But employer-provided health care has been on the table in scores of labor
talks in recent years. If the AFL-CIO has developed a model position for
its member unions on the issue, it has been kept under wraps. The labor
federation also has failed to respond to the consolidation of American
business, which turns regional companies into units of global enterprises
and warps the balance of power in any local job action. "The movement's
probably a little behind the curve on that," Trumka acknowledges.

It will be interesting to see whether Big Labor's entry into this fight
will finally produce a worthwhile settlement. From the workers' standpoint,
there are a few small positive glimmerings. A string of contracts with the
three chains is expiring over the next few months, including pacts in
Denver, Chicago, Washington and Las Vegas. The Northern California
contracts come up in July. If strikes drive away shoppers across the
nation, the chains' smugness might evaporate.

There are also signs that Wall Street, which goaded the supermarkets into
this fight, has wearied of the fun. This week, Smith Barney issued a "sell"
recommendation on Safeway stock, citing, among other things, Burd's
"heavy-handed" approach to labor.

The firm estimated that 5% of Safeway's lost sales may never come back, and
that it would take more than two years of savings from the company's
proposed labor contract to make up for the losses it already has incurred.
"Any concessions gained in California we would view as coming at a high
price," the firm's analyst wrote.

She was concerned with the toll on Safeway shareholders, but she might just
as well have been referring to the labor movement's reputation.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Golden State appears every Monday and Thursday. You can reach Michael
Hiltzik at  golden.state@latimes.com and read his previous columns at
latimes.com/hiltzik.

Jobs with Justice support rally at noon today 24.Jan.2004 10:53

tsalagi red

Noon at Safeway on Broadway in the Lloyd district.

Either credulous, or conniving, as hell 24.Jan.2004 10:59

Alexander Berkman

What does it say that this Hermosa Beach, CA reporter and his rag would run an article taking at face value the claims of police that workers tried to start a riot in front of police HQ led by a "60 year old lawyer"? How high does that register on your BULLSHIT DETECTOR? Mine's just about pegged.

They're either the most credulous fools around, or they're conniving, antilabor, pro-Pinkerton scumbags. Or maybe a little of both.

This is why I left Socal, because of shitheads like these. (Yes, they're everywhere, but there's a remarkable concentration of them there.)

I Feel Betrayed By Labor & Corps. 24.Jan.2004 21:23

Suzanne Manuel, San Diego g-smanuel@cox.net

After spending 100 plus days on the picket line in Coronado, CA. I can tell you that I feel betrayed by both Albertson's and my Union, Local 135. I've worked in this industry for 25 years. I have worked and promoted my company everyday in the small community of Coronado for 16 years. I have joined the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary, always with the name "Albertson's" coming directly after my name; "Suzanne from Albertson's". I've always thought of myself as an assest to my company, but, I understand now that Albertson's sees me as a liability. I really get it now. No, I don't have a masters degree, but, I have always been proud of the job I do. I come in contact with more people in one week, then most people do in a year. But, my company doesn't care.
As for my union, well, they were not well prepared for this huge fight. Things were too little, too late; the teamster's involvement in November, after all the shelves were stocked for Thanksgiving. Tell me, what was that all about??? The misinformation at the beginning of the strike, the confusion on the lines and, almost party atmosphere with some of the picketers did little to promote our cause.
As this wears on and drags out, more and more of our good employees will find work elsewhere. After seeing the poor quality of the "replacement" workers, I guess that is what Albertson's is looking for. Instead of seeing the same clerk, baker & produce clerk year after year, customers will now see a steady flow of changing faces in their neighborhood grocery stores.
It all makes me very sad.

Suzanne Manuel
San Diego, CA.

619-690-2879