Washington (PAI) – The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the nation's largest union of grocery workers is lauding the recent win by non-union Market Basket workers in Massachusetts against family owners who wanted to strip them of decent wages and benefits. But the UFCW says the Market Basket workers would be even better off with union protection.
The comments from UFCW President Joe Hansen, a former grocery meat-cutter, came after a long strike by Market Basket managers, workers and customers – and an absolute crash in the chain's sales – led the anti-worker members of the ruling family to prospectively sell out to former pro-worker CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas, whom they deposed months before.
Hansen and two Massachusetts local UFCW presidents congratulated the Market Basket workers and pledged UFCW would continue to stand by them as they negotiate terms for their return to work following the success in ousting the anti-worker family owners. They were forced to sell their shares in Market Basket, a large New England grocery chain, to Arthur T. Demoulas for $1.5 billion. Arthur S. Demoulas, a cousin, led the anti-worker faction.
SOLIDARITY AND SUPPORT
“Market Basket workers have secured the return of their preferred corporate leader by standing together in unprecedented collective actions. These workers showed the real value of any company is not held in stocks, but in the dedication and hard work of its workforce,” Hansen and his colleagues said.
“Market Basket workers and their families have made tremendous sacrifices, and proved that when they stand together, they have the power to move mountains... As Market Basket workers negotiate the terms of their return to work, we will continue to offer our solidarity and our support,” the three UFCW officials declared.
MOST ARE PART-TIMERS
But UFCW member Jeff Goldhaber, who works at unionized Stop ’N Shop, another Massachusetts grocery chain, offered cautionary words. He said Arthur T. Demoulas' pro-worker attitudes, good pay and benefits extended to managers and full-timers, while his chain's competitively low prices and outstanding service from loyal workers produced shopper loyalty.
But most of the Market Basket workers are part-timers, Goldhaber said. Other reports say those part-timers lost what little they had – lower wages and fewer benefits – in the strike.
That gave Goldhaber a view of the conflict “very different than what you hear in the press from striking managers,” he told an online labor publication.
Without paychecks and benefits, Goldhaber said those part-timers told him that the movement to bring “Artie T.” back to Market Basket and to save the chain “were two different things.”
And Arthur T. Demoulas must borrow most of the money to rebuy the chain, other sources noted. That could affect his future profits and policies.
GUARANTEED GOOD JOBS
By contrast, having the UFCW at Stop ’N Shop has guaranteed good jobs and without the uncertainty that would occur should another sale or takeover succeed at Market Basket, Goldhaber added.
UFCW, in its website backgrounder on the Market Basket battle, agrees:
HELPING WORKERS GOING FORWARD
“Market Basket workers have an unassailable right to engage in collective action in defense of their benefits and working conditions. These workers deserve a guarantee that their livelihoods will not be jeopardized by a change in management,” it says.
“To truly guarantee those rights, Market Basket workers could stand together, just as they have been doing – this time to form a union at Market Basket. UFCW has listened to the concerns of hundreds of Market Basket workers who reached out to us through our local offices, websites and social media.
“With the support of UFCW members at Stop ’N Shop, we have been helping workers weigh their options going forward. The UFCW will continue talking to any workers who are interested in bargaining to gain more meaningful assurances from Market Basket that their families will not suffer through another lay-off because of a future family feud.”