cross the picket line--or not?

Background: in southern California, the United Food and Commercial Workers union is currently picketing three grocery chains (LA Times news article).

I live within walking distance of two grocery stores. One is a union store that is currently being picketed. The other is an independent store, non-union. I normally buy groceries from both stores. (The union store has better overall selection; the other has cheaper fresh veggies and fruits, a big fraction of my groceries.)

I haven’t yet crossed the picket line. I’m not typically pro-union, but I can get everything I need from the other store, so why bother crossing the line? My question for debate is “Is it really in the union’s long-term best interest for me to get in the habit of going to a non-union store?

Sure by not crossing the picket line now, I help the union apply pressure to the grocery chain. But what if don’t start going back to the store once the picketing ends? I can easily change my buying habits; I don’t have to have the better selection the union store offers.

I’m using my self as an example, but all of southern Cal has similar choices.

It’s hard for me to imagine something more honorable than crossing a picket line. But if it’s the long-term you’re looking out for, buy from the store who has the best combination of price, quality, selection, and convenience for your needs. Don’t worry whether the store is union or non-union, let the market take care of that.

Well, of course the union hopes you’ll go back to their store when the strike ends. And although you raise a good point, what other option does the the union have if they can’t negotiate what they feel is a fair settlement?

Unless I have a dog in the particular fight that’s going on, I pretty much ignore strikes and shop where I want. I’m actually in exactly the same situation you are, except in Northern CA, and I’ll probably just shop at the other store to avoid the hassle of dealing with picket lines and poorer service at the union store (which actually has terrible service even during normal times).

“the union store has . . .”
“the other store has cheaper . . .”

And, after the strike, when the union store’s labor costs go up:

“the union store has . . .”
“the other store has MUCH cheaper . . .”

Its a no brainer to me, I would and have crossed picket lines more than once. Hell, Id deliberately forget a few things just so I could go back and do it again. Lets face it, their picketing to force you to pay more for groceries. Thats what it boils down to in the long run. If the union had its way, Cal would be like some states back east and there wouldnt even be the choice of non-union stores to go to. Screw em.

As far as what other choice do the workers have? Well, they can get jobs doing something else. They can use the inflated wages they get to go to school and learn a skill that requires a bit more than sliding things over scanners. Jeez, I know people in their 40s whove never done anything but check groceries! I mean c’mon, youve got people who bag groceries making damn near the same per hour as electricians and plumbers for christs sake. Theyve got it pretty damn cushy and they have a fit when asked to help pay for their ~own~ healthcare?

Oh, Id cross the picket allright.

It’s really not an issue for me. If this is were I go grocery shopping then that’s it, I’m going in - and you better not stand in my way. I think unions were a very important idea once upon a time, but now their demands seem more and more ridiculous all the time.

Out of shear principle, I will not support any union unless it is in a state with a strong open-shop rule. As much as I agree that workers have the right to come together and voice their desires/complaints/etc as one, I feel just as strongly that those who do not wish to join don’t have to (and, don’t have to pay to support the others).

If this store has better selection, especially of what you want, then by all means patronize it. You are doing nothing wrong, and you are not (despite what pro-unioinists might say) taking sides in the debate by doing so.

Ever worked in a second story room with thirty other people and no fans or air-conditioners when the temperature outside was over 100 degrees?

I have.

I never cross a picket line.


I’d like to see a cite for that as well.

No, but I have worked in a cramped hay loft, 50 feet above the only solid flooring, with stooped back and legs burried in hay or straw bales to the thighs, with temperatures outside well over 100, and the temperature inside well above that because the hay or straw I’m stacking is an excellent insulator and the roof just inches over my head is corrogated metal. Oh yeah, and even if I wanted to breath the hot, humid, stinking air I can’t because it is full of chaff so thick I can barely see the bales tumbling toard me. And I was 14, and making less than $4 an hour.

How’s that for pulling on the heart strings?

It’s work, it ain’t a pic-nic.

Why would you not cross a picket line b/c you’ve worked in 100 degree conditions, etc.?

Do you think the grocery stores are sweat shops? They work in air conditioned comfort for $18 an hour. They are mad b/c they now have to pay $5 a week (or is it every other week) for healthcare costs. If anything I’d think you’d be mad at their arrogance for being so spoiled.

So why would you, a guy who presumably didn’t benefit from being in a union, not cross a picket line?

Unions are extortionist leeches.


I’ve never worked in a supermarket, but I have seen the kind of manual labor that’s involved. Even if it’s all indoors, it’s hardly “air-conditioned comfort”, since the AC isn’t running at Arctic Blast levels to compensate for all the movement you do.

I work in air-conditioned comfort, but that’s only because the majority of my tasks involve typing and going to meetings, not dragging 300-pound palettes of stuff all over the place.

Geez, if working in a supermarket is such a cakewalk, why not quit your job and apply? :rolleyes:

It’s been a good many years since I worked in a grocery store, but I’m skeptical that anyone but a manager makes $18 per hour, bri1600bv. Do you have a cite for that? As I remember it, clerks didn’t earn anywhere near on a par with electricians and plumbers, Voodoochile, and even though that was many years ago, my guess is that the ratio between grocery clerks’ wages and electricians’ wages is roughly similar today.

Since health care is such a huge part of the average family’s expenses these days, having employer paid insurance is vital to many people. I sympathize with the strikers. Grocery stores (which sell a lot more than groceries) like to say that they operate on a razor-thin profit margin. If they were only selling groceries, that would be true. But their margins on many of the things they sell, from liquor to small appliances has to be higher than the four cents on the dollar a store manager once moaned to me about. In any event, they do such a great volume that they are not hurting for profit by paying for medical insurance.

I live in the boondocks, where the local store is non-union. Their prices are slightly higher on some things, but not enough to justify the 40-mile round trip to Victorville. I haven’t been into “town” since before the strike began. I believe the Von’s store in Victorville is closed, because I called the pharmacy there to check on a prescription and got a recorded message that the pharmacy in the store is closed. I would not cross a picket line to buy groceries because I can get them nearby. As it is, I need to pick up a prescription for my 95-year-old stepmother, so if just crossing a picket line were the only problem I’d do it in a heartbeat. If the store is closed the question of dodging pickets is moot.

I’ve used a few too many words to say I would cross the picket line for my stepmother’s meds, but I wouldn’t otherwise.

No cite, but I believe a meat cutter’s pay approaches $18/hr (this is what is known as a skilled position).

I’ve got no reason to suppose the same is true of the lady running the register.

No one said that working in a supermarket doesn’t suck (and I have worked in supermarkets, factories, warehouses and construction sites) but it aint exactly back-breaking labor either.

Doesn’t matter because we don’t pay people based on how shitty their job is. We pay them based on the supply of people available to accomplish a particular task.

I don’t know where liberals get this naive idea that you can arbitarily inflate wages without negative repercussions. “Well I would be willing to pay a little more each week for groceries”…yeah right. They can say that because they live in a college dorm financed by their parents. Maybe some single working mom with 5 kids barely able to make ends meet would be unable to pay a 5% increase in grocery prices?

I’d cross the picket line. Everyone has the right to work, everyone has the right to not work. But if there is a wildcat strike at your shop, then they are saying their right to protest is greater than my right to work, and that’s not fair, nor is it fair for their right to protest to interfere with my right to shop. Now if the whole store is on strike, why would you want to shop there?

So to answer the question, I think there are a lot of things unions do that just don’t make sense.

When I worked for the phone company and our union went on strike, did people stop using their telephones to support us? I think not.

I have no love management OR the union: on the last day before we went out, my co-workers were talking about sabotaging some of the equipment, the possible use of violence against scabs, and retribution for anyone crossing the picket line. Since it was a union shop, I had to pay my dues, but I had no interest in banding together with people like that!

So, you are admitting you just made up facts to support your side of the argument.

If there was only one grocery store within walking distance, I’d shop there even if it was on strike. I’m not going to suffer L.A. traffic just to pick up some groceries. But I believe in the free market, and if the union thinks they can get a better deal for themselves by picketing, then so be it. I really wonder though, if the picketing lasts too long, that the unions are hurting themselves by discouraging customers.

I don’t really see how what the picketers are paid has any bearing on whether a picket line should be crossed. They’re paid whatever the market sets their wages at. I see this is as more of a customer relations issue than a benefits issue.

Svt4Him: one of the chains (Ralph’s) is on strike, the other two (Von’s and Albertson’s) are locked out. The stores are being kept open by non-union replacement workers at reduced open hours.

One other note: now L.A. county mass transit has been shut down by a mechanics strike. California is going to start feeling like France. :slight_smile:

From this Fox news article.

First of all, there is only workers at one supermarket on strike.

The other two large chains have locked out workers in response.

Pleonast doesnt’ mention the name of the store near his or her home but there is a 2/3 chance that those workers are locked out and not on strike.

I am surprised to see that the workers earn as much as they do:

I was talking with my sister about the strike last night. She had spoken with a worker she knows down at the local Von’s who said the big hang-up is pension benefits. Now my sister is notoriously inaccurate about most things so I went Goggling this morning. I got the usual assortment of news stories but no real word of what the corporate offer was that the workers struck against.

Can anyone help me on this? The spin from both sides involved in a strike tends to get a little much and it’d be nice to read what the proposals actually are. Any cites or sites?

My own take is if the strike is a result of the described health insurance costs then the workers are being wienies. On the other hand, if corporate is trying to gut the pension plan to avoid the cost of retiring baby boomers then Von’s is being nasty.

And re the OP, I crossed the line last night down at the Von’s and all the picketers were very polite. I think they all understood that for some people the closest store is the only option.