1. When was the site launched and what is the reasoning behind it?
The site was launched in September 2011 to raise awareness among workers and the general public of the importance of setting higher standards in the industry. We ask the rhetorical question, “Who benefits from higher standards?” The answer is that everyone benefits: the workers, their families, the shoppers, the employers and the entire community.
Visitors to the site are able to compare the wages, benefits and working conditions of various supermarket chains. They are encouraged to invest themselves in the cause by describing their opinions and experiences as employees and shoppers. And they are briefed on developments in the supermarket industry, including negotiations with retail food employers.
We expect all workers to realize they can have better pay and health care if they are able to bargain collectively. And we expect shoppers at grocery stores to be more conscious of the way those stores treat their workers.
In addition to the website, our campaign will employ the entire spectrum of communication tools, including handbills, Facebook updates, information cards, newsletters, contests, direct mailings, radio and TV commercials, door hangers, buttons, T-shirts, balloons, banners — you name it.
2. Have any of the grocery stores contacted to join bargaining done so?
We are engaged in bargaining with several major chains and smaller employers.
3. What has been the non-union grocery response to the website? How about union employers?
We were pleasantly surprised when a non-Union employer responded positively to our invitation to negotiations. The Union employers are enthusiastic.
4. When did contract negotiations begin?
We began our contract negotiations in the summer of 2011.
5. What do you hope the website will accomplish for UFCW members?
Our success in forcing non-Union employers to meet area standards will, in turn, relieve the pressure on Union employers to attempt to lower their standards. This will mean better contracts for our members in the future. In the immediate term, our members who read our materials and visit the website will be better educated on the issues and better informed of the advantages of collective bargaining.
6. What do you hope it will accomplish for non-union represented employees?
We are laying the groundwork for more workers to enjoy the good things that come with Union representation, including better wages, benefits and working conditions.
7. Are organizers also visiting non-Union stores as part of the campaign and why?
Our organizers are visiting those stores and speaking with non-Union workers. This is a massive informational effort. We’re pleased with the response of non-Union workers who are starved for information and are uniformly surprised by the wages and benefits earned in Union stores. They are seeking their piece of the pie.
8. Where did the idea come from for this site?
It comes from the notion that we’re bargaining on behalf of workers at the independent, non-Union stores, whether their employers are actively sitting at the table or not.
So many in those stores don’t understand that they are benefiting from the union’s good work, making sure that industry standards are raised, not lowered. Union or no union, we are doing the same jobs in the same community. The non-Union workers are entitled to know we’re providing a service that helps them in real, tangible ways.
9. Has UFCW 8-Golden State ever used the Internet or social media like this before?
Our organization has always been passionate about using technology and the Internet to communicate our message. We have maintained an IT and social media department since 1997.
10. Do you hope the site will help educate the general public about the industry and perhaps inform their shopping decisions?
Those are critical goals of our program. Many of our efforts are dedicated to informing the public about the importance of maintaining and improving standards in the grocery industry. The local supermarket functions as the town square of contemporary American society. Unlike the manufacturing sector, jobs in the service economy cannot be exported overseas. That makes our Union a critical player in defending what's left of the middle class. As grocery jobs go, so goes the community.