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Shameless In Sacramento

Written by Bill Pearson Sunday, 19 March 2006

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse; any more perverse, the boys at UFCW local 588 provide us with even more material to regurgitate on. Honestly, I felt the termination of presidential candidate Doug Slaydon by Safeway cronies and stooges was the bottom of the barrel: Boy was I wrong.

The biz unionists running the local have stooped to an all time low; and that's saying a lot. The history of election challenges during the Jack Loveall era makes interesting reading and provides us with a trail of sordid actions and stunning stories. Now his son Jacque has provided us a glimpse of the kind of shameless self-serving capacity that would make even dear old dad blush.

With the time drawing near for the local to issue an election call, out of the blue members were sent ballots to vote on a merger between two UFCW locals. Seems the executive boards of UFCW 588 and UFCW 1288 have seen fit to join hands and sing Kumbaya and Solidarity Forever. Damn, what a stroke of genius... Oop's! did we forget to mention along with it came a pre-ordained slate of candidates for office of the newly formed local?

Here it is, straight from page 2 of the Merger Agreement: Sect. III "Officers and Executive Board Members of the UFCW 8" sect (B): The initial officers of UFCW 8 shall hold office from May 1, 2006 through December 31, 2008.

Cool eh? Just like being crowned king and anointed by the pope all at once. The powers that be have just won the lottery, and they are actually trying to entice members to vote for it because it will be good for the membership. It's true; their argument is their newfound size will give them ample strength to take on employers like never before. Rolling in the aisle laughing out loud would be the outcome if it just wasn't such a sad spectacle and so fucking shameless on their part.

Websites like uncharted (MFD prior to the evolution), REAP, Groceryworker, Retailworker and hundreds of others have loudly lamented the biz union model. The stories are legion of piggish, boorish and brutish behavior by those who have stepped on people to get to the top. They have all too often been willing to demonstrate an air of elitism that says they are above it all; more important than those they are supposed to serve; above the law, and certainly more vital to the mix than the members who pay their bloated salaries and bountiful benefits.

This isn't a new theme, especially for those of you in Canada. The old merger game has allowed Canadian union leaders to duck the obligations in the UFCW International Constitution and simply avoid facing the membership's wrath. There are stories of locals that have gone years without elections and it appears the local 588 crew is trying to take a page from your playbook.

I have long argued that couldn't happen in the United States. The Department of Labor (DOL) has very specific rules regarding the election of officers. Given the amount of problems the biz union model has created by those seeking to insure they stay in power, the federal government has mandated elections every three years and has drafted strict procedures to insure a "fair" election is run. Challenges are often seen and it is not unusual to find rerun elections a by-product of those who use their positions as incumbents to taint the system.

This case is so egregious, I can well envision the DOL stepping in and stopping it before it happens. The idiots trying to put this together have blatantly and willfully excluded the membership from running at all. Inexcusable and shameless; travesty of justice is an understatement and perhaps one of the most telling reasons why institutionalized labor will never come back until the business union model is gone.

Let's be blunt here and examine what this is all about and why it is happening. Here are local 588's reasons to vote for the merger. As you can see, the spin doctoring is masterful and by the time one is done reading about joining hands with a sister local, the appearance of a bigger, stronger union is a good thing. Appearances are deceptive, and the reality (the truth) is more contained in a retro look at what is really at stake.

The locals in California have been taking a good old fashion ass kicking at the bargaining table the last several years. In spite of the best efforts by locals (with the exception of UFCW 588 who has ignored pleas of other locals to join them) to work together, the employers have been having their way. Contracts have been concessionary, new hires have been pummeled and old timers have seen their wages stagnant and their benefits in jeopardy.

Conversely, the Union leaders have faired far better. Salaries for the leadership in many locals have spiked generously. Seems while they have said they feel the members pain, they have been unwilling to share in the suffering. The Local 588 salary increases for staff and officers is a travesty and one that should and did have members up in arms over. Seems Jacque and company had no problem telling members it was time to tighten their belts while they were feeding like pigs in the trough.

But what about the folks at local 1288, surely they weren't as bad as their counterparts. A brief look at their LM2 from 2005 is a quick study on why this is happening. We know their local size is less than 8000 members. We see the salary for the president is a mere $229,000; we even have read some stories on a massive desertification by Foster Farm workers a few years back. It has a look of a local with potential problems.

However as we read of the pending marriage we see this new juggernaut of strength and unity growing and becoming the beacon leading workers into the light. The question is, for whom? Sadly, when you look closely, we see those who will benefit first and foremost is the leadership. The merger agreement proudly states no one within the local's leadership will lose his or her positions or their power. Titles will be re-arranged, but their financial status will be preserved.

Nice eh? A union finally doing what it is supposed to do, protect the workers... to bad in this case it's those who already have more than the rest of the membership. As members are being asked to support this merger, the 588 Website has poorly crafted pages announcing the impending doom of both Ralphs workers and Albertson workers.

It is what biz unionism is all about: Taking care of themselves. It is a cartoon caricature of what is wrong with organized labor today: A bunch of fat cats who are intent on keeping their place in the sun while members are starving and hoping for something better to come along. Sorry to say, this merger has nothing to do with the membership but is all about the leadership keeping theirs. It is shameless and it is why the biz union model has to be destroyed, dismantled and replaced by a true workers movement.

I don't know if Doug Slaydon and his slate is the answer, but I do know their ideas and proposals are 100% better for workers than what we have seen from local 588, local 1288 and the now pending marriage of the two. Unfortunately, this latest shameless game being played by Loveall et al will pre-empt members from ever finding out, and that is wrong... plain and simply wrong.

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