UFCW Strikes at Giant and Safeway over Obamacare Hurts Union Companies

United Food & Commercial Workers UFCW Local 400 members authorized strikes against Safeway and Giant over Obamacare, could push customers to nonunion stores

The UFCW has authorized strikes against two major unionized grocery stores prominently located in the mid-atlantic region surrounding Washington, D.C. – Giant and Safeway:

Members of United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 voted overwhelmingly this afternoon to authorize a strike against Safeway, joining their fellow members working at Giant who also voted this morning to authorize a strike against their employer. At both stores, UFCW Local 400 members are fired up about management’s refusal to offer a fair contract.

And the issue at the heart of the strikes should seem pretty familiar to those who have been following our recent coverage of UFCW:

“The big issue at the table has been health care and today, our union brothers and sisters refused to go backward and authorized our local union leadership to call a strike,” said Vivian Sigouin, a Bargaining Advisory Committee member who works at Safeway #1431.

That’s right – UFCW members are worried that they may end up on the Obamacare exchange systems and lose their current health care plans that they’ve bargained for through their union. The irony that Obamacare was pushed for- and celebrated by- the UFCW should not be lost. We’ve already discussed at length about how the UFCW’s support of Obamacare has backfired, and now the union is trying to take it out on employers.

What makes this potential strike fascinating is the area and locality. As mentioned, the vote merely authorizes a strike – whether the strike happens remains to be seen. Strike authorizations are a step in the direction towards an actual picket line, intended to signal to employers that agreements are in danger of dissolution. The actual strike may or may not happen, but the potential strike could actually create more dangers for the unions than their employers.

Over the last few years, the UFCW, in conjunction with their worker center front group, Our Walmart, have been targeting the non-union Walmart. They objected to Walmart’s expansion into the Washington, D.C. area and encouraged the D.C. City Council to pass prohibitive regulations. Despite their best attempts, their efforts failed. Now, even as they threaten to strike the most prevalent union-run grocery stores in the D.C. area, Walmart is opening hiring centers for their two new locations.

The implication is clear – unionized stores like Giant and Safeway face strikes, picket lines and loss of customers. The non-union, enemy of the UFCW evaded their tactics, is creating jobs, and stands to profit from UFCW’s protests. The UFCW is demonstrating what Walmart’s future could look like under union rule, and it isn’t a pretty picture.

Not only that, but the underlying conflict is over policy passed with the help of the union, and later objected to by the same union. Now, not only will the UFCW strikes potentially endanger seasonal profits for Giant and Safeway, but they may also be putting that business right into the hands of their biggest competition. With an example like this, what sane company would join the UFCW?