Monday, September 14, 2009

According to the following article from the Edmonton Sun the strike against Safeway in Edmonton has ended after only six days. After rejecting a proposed contract agreed to by their union, the UFCW, by over 70% the workers saw that their strike was going to be a futile gesture as the Alberta Labour Relations Board ruled that vehicles were not to be impeded from entering and exiting Safeway premises, essentially guaranteeing that the scabs that the company had hired would be able to continue "business as usual". No doubt the UFCW staff were busy lecturing the people involved about just how unrealistic their demands were as well.

Whatever the reasons the workers involved, after only six days of a strike marked by some militancy in trying to blockade vehicles voted to accept the contract that they had originally rejected. The strike was, of course, not supported by any attempt on the part of the union nor the general labour movement to build any solidarity amongst other unionists, let alone the general public. What does this say, besides the generally pessimistic conclusion that one should accept the "wisdom" of union staffers ? It first of all says that people who go on strike are deluding themselves if they believe that all they have to do is rely on their union. First and foremost a strike is won or lost by the people who are actually involved, not some bureaucracy that they are presumably represented by.

Second of all it says that, especially in a conservative jurisdiction like Alberta that you might as well "go for the whole hog from the start". The courts and government boards will generally be on the "other side", especially when they are staffed with political appointees from parties that represent business. Rather than picketing and depending upon "traditional" union tactics the people involved should have moved to occupy the distribution centre and the Lucerne plant. Even if the end result would have been the same it would have 1)gained a little more respect from management and 2)led to at least a few days of free ice cream for the occupiers of the one plant. So, as people go back to work they should not just ponder whether the UFCW is the right union for them, but also what they could have done differently, both at the plants and amongst the general public. This is the third, and perhaps most important point. It is not entirely the fault of an union bureaucracy who are dragged into a strike that they didn't want in the first place that no great effort was made to reach out to the general public during the, brief, duration of this strike. To a large degree strikes today, even in the private sector, are won or lost just as much by public perception and support (or lack thereof) as they are by industrial action. Most unions today find this a rather alien concept, and it is up to the ordinary union member to educate their "leaders", not the other way around.

Anyways, here's the story from the Edmonton Sun.
Safeway workers end six-day strike:
Safeway workers at the company's Edmonton distribution centre returned to work after voting to end the six-day strike yesterday afternoon.

"We have received notification from the UFCW that the membership has voted in favour of the contract offer, so we do have a ratification, which means the strike is officially over," said Safeway spokesman Betty Kellsey.

"We are really pleased with the outcome of the vote."

Around 3 p.m., the workers voted in favour of the contract put forward to them Aug. 26.
Safeway got word after 5 p.m.

About 360 unionized employees from the distribution centre, frozen food warehouse and Lucerne ice-cream plant went on strike Monday.

The strike came after more than 70% of workers rejected the company's offer to increase their pay by about 14% over three years. (Welllllll, not exactly-Molly )

The company had hired about 200 replacement workers to continue operations. They will now be let go, Kellsey said.

At least seven Safeway tractor-trailers and some non-union management staff were blocked from entering the distribution centre and Lucerne ice-cream plant on Monday.

The Alberta Labour Relations Board later ruled picketers must allow vehicles in and out of Safeway's buildings near 143 Street and Yellowhead Trail.

No comments: