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The Los Angeles Times this morning reports that the AFL-CIO has decided to intervene in the Southern California supermarket strike, "taking control of national strategy" and looking "to turn around a battle in which employers seem to have gained the upper hand."

According to the LAT, "the plan is to pressure the supermarket companies by hounding executives and directors with phone calls and visits, staging demonstrations across the country — including a pray-in outside the Northern California home of the chief executive of Safeway Inc. — and persuading major grocery-company shareholders, such as pension funds, to take stands in the union's favor."

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) welcomed the AFL-CIO participation.

The strike/lockout, affecting more than 70,000 employees at Southern California's three major chains - Safeway's Vons, Kroger's Ralphs, and Albertsons - began more than 100 days ago and is over compensation and health benefits issues. There are have been a couple of aborted attempts at negotiations, but no progress has been achieved on either side…which analysts have said helps the chains in the long run. In the short-term, of course, it is estimated the chains have lost $1 billion in sales.

By getting involved, the AFL-CIO hopes to bring some solidarity to the seven UFCW locals in Southern California that reportedly have been at loggerheads over some issues. It also hopes to create some momentum that will be on labor's side in other negotiations around the country.
KC's View:
We can't help but feel that time is running out and the pressure is increasing for the unions. The UFCW's members have been going without paychecks for too long, temporary health insurance is too expensive, and the specter of upcoming labor negotiations can be seen on the horizon.

Beyond that, you can just tell the unions are getting a little nuts. They got upset yesterday about an ad that Safeway ran in California newspapers recognizing the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., saying that a grocery chain had no right to celebrate Dr. King's achievements at a time when it is oppressing employees.

Well, we hate to side with Safeway, a company that we've been fairly critical of on a number of issues. But here's an advisory to the union - organized labor doesn't have sole rights to the message of equality that Dr. King preached. And to turn his legacy into a negotiating tactic seems, well, tacky.