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HAYWARD, Calif. - Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the Oakland-based California Labor Federation, said yesterday that his group would join with the United Food and Commercial Workers union for what the UFCW has referred to as a "major escalation" of the "Boycott Pledge Card" campaign.
The initiative has union members soliciting shoppers to sign pledges that they won't shop at Safeway, the top grocer in the Bay Area, if the UFCW, which is currently involved in labor talks with the Pleasanton-based supermarket chain, as well as with Kroger and Albertsons, calls for a boycott.
On Dec. 16, unionized grocery workers and their allies from 50 labor and community groups will collect pledge cards from customers in front of Safeway stores in 25 cities. According to the UFCW, more than 75,000 customers have pledged to honor a boycott, if one is called.
"The California Labor Federation is joining with community and interfaith leaders to step in to hold Safeway accountable for the massive health care cuts that they are seeking at the bargaining table," said Pulaski in a statement. "We see no reason to let Safeway and the other large grocers shirk their responsibility and pass such enormous costs onto working families and the taxpayers."
Pulaski spoke at a press conference following a mass membership meeting of Bay Area grocery workers. At the meeting, employees discussed current contract negotiations, as well as preparations for a possible strike or boycott. The rally came in the wake of two weeks of tense negotiations between the union and Safeway, Kroger, and Albertsons.
The California Labor Federation represents more than 2 million union members throughout the state.
In other labor news, the retailers and the San Francisco Bay Area UFCW locals agreed on Tuesday to extend the expiring labor agreements and continue multi-employer and multi-union bargaining until Jan. 15, 2005, superseding the agreement set to expire yesterday. The current contract negotiations cover more than 30,000 grocery workers in the Bay Area.
"This extension is a positive development for all parties involved," said Safeway in a statement. "By working together at the bargaining table, we can find solutions to the challenges that face the unionized supermarket industry. These challenges are well chronicled: skyrocketing health care costs and the dramatic rise of nonunion competitors who pay far lower wages and far fewer benefits."