Skip to comments.Picketers for Hire [Union hires non-union workers to protest Wal-Mart & pays less than Wal Mart]
Posted on 09/17/2005 8:19:40 AM PDT by grundle
Picketers for Hire
The strange business of protesting jobs that may be better than yours
By Stacy J. Willis
The shade from the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market sign is minimal around noon; still, six picketers squeeze their thermoses and Dasani bottles onto the dirt below, trying to keep their water cool. They're walking five-hour shifts on this corner at Stephanie Street and American Pacific Drive in Hendersonanti-Wal-Mart signs propped lazily on their shoulders, deep suntans on their faces and armswith two 15-minute breaks to run across the street and use the washroom at a gas station.
Periodically one of them will sit down in a slightly larger slice of shade under a giant electricity pole in the intersection. Four lanes of traffic rush by, some drivers honk in support, more than once someone has yelled, "assholes!" but mostly, they're ignored.
They're not union members; they're temp workers employed through Allied Forces/Labor Express by the unionUnited Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). They're making $6 an hour, with no benefits; it's 104 F, and they're protesting the working conditions inside the new Wal-Mart grocery store.
"It don't make no sense, does it?" says James Greer, the line foreman and the only one who pulls down $8 an hour, as he ambles down the sidewalk, picket sign on shoulder, sweaty hat over sweaty gray hair, spitting sunflower seeds. "We're sacrificing for the people who work in there, and they don't even know it."
The union accuses Wal-Mart of dragging down wages and working conditions for other grocery-store workers across the nation. "Whether you work or shop at Wal-Mart, the giant retailer's employment practices affect your wages. Wal-Mart leads the race to the bottom in wages and health-care," says the UFCW's website. "As the largest corporation in the world, Wal-Mart has a responsibility to the people who built it. Wal-Mart jobs offer low pay, inadequate and unaffordable healthcare, and off the clock work."
But standing with a union-supplied sign on his shoulder that reads, Don't Shop WalMart: Below Area Standards, picketer and former Wal-Mart employee Sal Rivera says about the notorious working conditions of his former big-box employer: "I can't complain. It wasn't bad. They started paying me at $6.75, and after three months I was already getting $7, then I got Employee of the Month, and by the time I left (in less than one year), I was making $8.63 an hour." Rivera worked in maintenance and quit four years ago for personal reasons, he says. He would consider reapplying.
Rivera is one of few picketers here who have ever worked for Wal-Martit's strictly coincidental that he was once in their employ. Most of the picketers were just looking for work through the temp agency.
While Rivera's words for Wal-Mart seem less than harsh, he does add, "I did not want to get insurance from them because it was too expensive."
That, says UCFW organizer Bill Hornbrook, who drove workers to the site one morning last week, is one of the reasons the union wants these protestors here.
"Wal-Mart has no benefits at an affordable rate. The (Wal-Mart) workers can't afford the insurance with the wage they're making. We'd like to see them improve their working conditions," Hornbrook said. "The Neighborhood Markets are the same as a supermarket like Albertson's or Safeway. Some supermarkets start (pay) at $7 an hour, but they do get benefits. These people (employees at Wal-Mart) have to pay for theirs," Hornbrook said. So the UCFW is protesting each of the five new Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets in the Vegas area; this one in Henderson opened June 29.
Wal-Mart is infamous for its labor and consumer battlesmore than 40 cases alleging the company prevented workers from receiving adequate wage and overtime pay are being considered by courts for class-action status. Additionally, six current and former female employees are pursuing a class-action lawsuit charging that Wal-Mart discriminates against women in its promotion practices.
"We're just trying to help the women that get discriminated against in Wal-Mart," says Greer. "We're out here suffering a lot for these people." He pauses, moves his sign so that it blocks the scorching sun on his leathery face, and considers the working conditions of his colleagues out here working for the union.
"We had one gal out here in her 40s, and she had a heat stroke. I kept making her sit down, I noticed she was stepping (staggering), and I made her sit in the shade," Greer said. She went home sick after her shift and didn't ever return to work.
Another woman, Greer said, had huge blisters on her feet and he took her inside to the Wal-Mart pharmacy. The pharmacist recommended some balm, and Greer bought it for her. Since then, he said, other picketers have purchased the balm for their blisters inside the Wal-Mart they are protesting.
The group has no transportation to go elsewherethey are dropped off by a union van and picked up later. On weekends, they have to find their own transportation, Greer said.
Inside, the store manager at the Stephanie Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market says he's perfectly happy with his job, and that his insurance is fine.
"The average rate of pay for Nevada Wal-Mart workers is $10.17 an hour. We have a good insurance program, and every associateeven part-timersare eligible for the 401k," says Mark Dyson. "There's actually different levels of insurance, dental and medicalI have a $500 deductible, but there's no cap on it. Some other companies' plans have a $1 million cap, but here there's no cap. For example, not long ago we had an associate whose husband needed a liver transplant, and that alone was $600,000; but they didn't have to worry about a cap."
For the least comprehensive medical coverage, Wal-Mart workers pay from $17.50 for individual coverage and $70.50 for family coverage biweekly, according to the company website.
"And we are actively promoting and developing women in the workforce," Dyson says. "I think every company has gone through an issue like this, but you should hire the best workers regardless of gender or race or anything else."
In Dyson's market, the air-conditioning is cool, business on this day seems brisk, and the employees seem not so miserable; two checkers chat it up as they ring up customers.
This is not lost on the picketers outside.
Rivera removes his watch to show the dark tan his arm has gotten working in the sun; he talks about how he takes three buses to get to this work site on weekends; it takes two hours to get there and two hours to get homea nine-hour day including that transportation for a gross pay of $35.
"I asked him (union organizer Hornbrook), I said, 'How come we're working here for $6 an hour? I need you to help us find a better job. I want information on the union,'" Rivera said.
He was told, he says, to secure his own job with a grocery store, and then the union would help him to be sure the store paid him appropriate wages.
"This is an informational picket line only," Hornbrook said. "We're paying these people. They were out of work before (joining their picket lines). This is an in-between-jobs stop. Picketing isn't a career. But we did hire one of the picketers, she's now working for us for $11 an hour (as a driver) and we pay for gasoline."
The UFCW's website concludes, "Every person working hard for a living earns the right to a decent wage, affordable health care and a voice on the job. But Wal-Mart's greed provides other companies a license to chip away at the rights of working America, influencing everything from wages to working conditions."
A union hired non-union workers to protest against Wal Mart.
The union pays these workers wages that are lower than what Wal-Mart pays its workers.
The worker's working conditions are worse than Wal-Mart's worker's working conditions.
And their employee benefits are worse than Wal-Mart's.
(The article was posted a few days ago, but it didn't contain the word "Wal Mart" in the heading, so it only got a few replies.)
And as long as I'm having fun, here are a couple similar articles.
When the Teamtsers built their new union hall, they saved money by hiring non-union construction workers.
And when the AFL-CIO built its new headquarters, they saved money by hiring non-union construction workers.
No label on this hall
Posted on Saturday, August 10 @ 11:19:56 CDT by teamsternet
News TeamsterNet writes Nonunion construction workers used to cut costs on new Teamsters building
By L.M. SIXEL
Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle
Teamsters Union 988 is holding the grand opening this weekend for its new union hall, which is expected to feature Teamsters President James P. Hoffa.
But it has become a sour moment for other labor leaders because the Teamsters didn't use union construction workers. They were told by the Teamsters that union contractors cost too much.
"No one is happy about it," said Paul Dunnam, organizer of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 716.
The electricians, along with other unions, complained to the Houston Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council but to no avail. The council has no leverage over an individual union like the Teamsters because each local is run by its members.
"There are serious solidarity issues here," said Richard Shaw, secretary-treasurer of the Harris County AFL-CIO.
Unions are supposed to support each other, said Shaw. He recalled how other unions backed the Teamsters during its last strike against United Parcel Service.
Dennis Bankhead, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 988, said he wouldn't comment on the new building, adding it was unlikely any other Teamsters official would have anything to say.
This dispute comes at a time when union construction workers are in demand because there is so much work available for skilled tradesmen.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is a member union of the international AFL-CIO and an affiliated member of its Building and Construction Trades Department.
While Teamsters Local 988 is one of the biggest locals in Houston with more than 2,000 members, it has had a rocky relationship with other labor groups. It withdrew from the local AFL-CIO about a year ago.
Another local, Teamsters Local 968, a construction union, has never been locally affiliated. But, Teamsters Local 919, which represents the brewery workers at Anheuser Busch, has long had ties to the Harris County AFL-CIO.
Local 988 put its union hall on Interstate 10 up for sale and over the past few months it has been building a 16,246-square-foot building at 4303 E. North Sam Houston Parkway.
Other union leaders are still puzzled why the local opted to build nonunion.
Robert "Sarge" Robinson, business manager of Plumbers Local Union 68 in Houston, said he remodeled his union's three-building complex in Houston during 1998 and 1999 and did it with union labor wherever possible.
"We paid a little extra but the quality was better," said Robinson, whose union covers plumbers in Beaumont, College Station, Victoria and Galveston. "Unions have to support one another."
While Robinson said he wouldn't have done what the Teamsters did, he said it's their decision.
E. Dale Wortham, president of the Harris Country AFL-CIO, said he wasn't involved in the discussions about the construction but has been hearing complaints from other unions.
He speculated that perhaps because Local 988 was paying a mortgage on two properties, it felt it needed to be specially careful how it spent its members' dues.
But, Wortham added, "I just can't believe the cost issue outweighed the right thing to do."
The AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C. has been undergoing extensive interior and exterior refurbishment over the past 18 months. And given that it is the AFL-CIO building, you'd assume the big laborites used all-union help.
But apparently the AFL-CIO wasn't looking for the union label as diligently as it expects other contractors to look. On several occasions, the union has hired non-union electrical and construction help. "Only if they couldn't find a local union shop to do it," says an in-house source. "But it did save us some money." If anyone knows about the high cost of union help, it's the AFL-CIO. (Washington Prowler)
That's the general nature of union workers..
so what's the problem?
Marked for later.
(Denny Crane: "Sometimes you can only look for answers from God and failing that... and Fox News".)
The picketers should go on strike. They could picket the terrible picketing conditions...or maybe they could hire picketers to picket the terrible picketing conditions of the picketers.
And good for them. Maybe they can be transmogrified into hard working citizens with hope for their futures.
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