In its Aug. 8 editorial, The News Tribune called for its readers to cross a picket line at nonunion Tacoma City Grocer. On Aug. 10, John Carlson of KOMO News Radio also called for people to go out of their way to cross the picket line set by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 367.
The editorial and Carlson have tried to paint the UFCW Local 367 as the bully on this issue, in that we are simply picking on IGA owner Tyler Myers and his small business that is so necessary to the revitalization of downtown Tacoma.
Such a short-sighted view of this situation ignores the thousands of working people this local and other unions in Tacoma represent, including grocery workers, retail sales workers, carpenters, electricians, health care workers, hotel workers, longshoremen, police, firefighters, teachers and tradespersons who constitute the middle class and drive the Tacoma community.
Local 367 is not the bully and has excellent relationships with small businesses in this area. This isn’t about Local 367; it is about Tacoma, Tacoma’s workers and Tacoma’s future.
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When you hear a union’s message of livable wages and benefits, you are hearing unions talk about a wage structure that calls for guaranteed pay increases based on longevity and hard work that go well above minimum wage and allow people to provide for their families and have purchasing power in their communities. They are talking about affordable health care that provides workers with peace of mind, that a single trip to the doctor will not financially cripple him or her or the family.
Most importantly, they are talking about good working conditions that are secure to the point that an employer cannot simply strip them away without any cause or on a whim.
Local 367, and Tacoma’s organized labor in general, support the revitalization of downtown. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to do this. The community should not be fooled by the notion that any job created is a good thing. It should reject the notion that a job created without livable wages, affordable benefits and pension is a positive thing for the Tacoma community when they are replacing a union job that provides livable wages and benefits.
Whether the next development is a retail store, restaurant or hotel, the next nonunion development could replace a well-paid carpenter, electrician, sales associate or food service employee.
Believing that a Walmart, for example, creating 300 low-paying jobs without any benefits, is a good thing, ignores the reality that it is replacing just as many small-business owners and union members earning a livable wage and affordable benefits and a pension. The same can be said for a business such as IGA. Organized labor will continue to educate the public on the dangers of accepting these and other nonunion employers into the Tacoma community.
The News Tribune and Carlson have simply taken Myers at his word that he pays at or above union wages, without having him provide any verifiable factual support. In addition, the article and Carlson implied that former union members claim to have better working conditions at IGA, but have quoted only one source. We encourage the TNT to follow up with its source, along with the other workers who have left the employ of IGA, to discover their thoughts about working for Myers.
This is why there is no better place than downtown Tacoma to send the message that union labor and union jobs are in the best interest for Tacoma, and this is why Tacomans should continue to shop at Stadium Thriftway, the Safeway on Hilltop, Albertsons, Metro Market, Top Food and Drug and Fred Meyer. Supporting union is supporting Tacoma.
Denise Jagielo is president of the UFCW Local 367.