For some background, here's the press release. Please call if you are interested in joing us as we expand these actions to more stores (feel free to adopt the one in your neighborhood).
Friday, January 23, 2004
Customers Will Destroy Safeway Club Cards in Support of 70,000 Grocery Workers Whose Health Benefits Are Under Attack by Safeway
Rally Saturday, January 24, Noon
Community activists, labor unionists, students, concerned citizens, and a drum corps will march on the Lloyd Center Safeway (1100 NE Broadway), Saturday January 24th at noon in support of the 70,000 grocery workers in Southern California who have been on strike since October 11, 2003 in a valiant fight for retention of their health benefits. Management is demanding the workers accept what amounts to a 75% cut in health coverage for new workers and a 50% cut for current employees. These workers are putting their livelihoods and their families on the line to protect not only their own health care benefits, but the health care benefits of all workers.
If Safeway has its way in Southern California, children will go without medical care, families will be forced into poverty, and people will be moved from work to welfare for their heath care benefits. Beyond southern California, 100,000 Safeway workers around the country, including in Seattle will soon enter contract negotiations. Safeway is asking for such dramatic concessions in southern California, that if it wins, workers everywhere will lose. The ripple effect will be felt by workers in other sectors of the economy.
Safeway management has stated that it must remain competitive with Wal-Mart, and Safeway's health care proposal mimics Wal-Mart's brutal health care policy. In other words, Safeway believes that even though operating profits for the grocery chains have risen over 10 times faster than their contributions to worker health care in Southern California, workers must pay more for their health care benefits.
If Safeway wins on this issue, workers can only expect a further Wal-Martization of their jobs and their lives, one of low wages and nearly non-existent benefits. Southern California's Safeway workers are holding the line for all workers, and a loss for them will be a loss for all workers. Gary Hakes, UFCW International Spokesperson, is urging Americans not to shop at Safeway until Safeway "does the right thing and provides affordable health care to all its workers."
As a sign of solidarity, would-be shoppers will be asked to destroy their Safeway Club Cards and encourage family, friends, and neighbors not to support Safeway until they offer these workers a fair contract. Says Margaret Butler, Executive Director of Portland's Jobs with Justice, "People in the Portland community care deeply about the strike in California. Our brothers and sisters there are fighting the health care battle for all of us. I won't be shopping at Safeway until workers have a fair settlement."