business news in context, analysis with attitude

We continue to get email related to the Southern California grocery strike. One MNB user wrote:

Does the UFCW understand that many employees are paying for a large portion of their insurance coverage and have been for quite some time? Do they understand that health care costs, especially for the excellent type of coverage given union employees, have increased dramatically??

Actually, we're pretty sure that they do realize that. The unions just see any cap on such benefits to be the beginning of a slippery slope that will lead them into what they perceive as Wal-Mart territory.

Whether or not that perception is correct, we think the unions also believe that the chains are using labor as a whipping boy for their own inefficiencies, and aren’t sure that this is an equitable approach.

MNB user Kevin T. Duffy wrote:

I think your article mentioning that Steve Burd is on the hot seat was interesting. Many of us who deal with the human relations side of the grocery industry have heard the same thing. I believe however that Steve Burd is not in danger of being replaced, despite his obvious missteps in Houston, Chicago and Philadelphia. The plain and simple fact is that Safeway cannot replace Burd while the strike is still unresolved. If they did, the unions will feel that they have won, disposed an antagonist and it will make all other union negotiations more, not less contentious. I think Burd has won grudging respect from competitors, his board and Wall Street by his stance, all of which believe parity needs to be achieved or at least the gap on labor needs to be closed versus Wal-Mart. If they do replace him in the middle of this strike, the term "Borked" will move from the government lexicon to a new term "Burded" in the business community. Just a thought, love the column.

MNB user Dave Ladd wrote about the fact that Wal-Mart's entry into the marketplace with supercenters seems to be precipitating this labor crisis:

My view is if Safeway, Kroger and all of the other grocery stores out there have a problem with Wal-Mart they should join in with the unions to get Wal-Mart employees in the union so that they can have a decent living wage & health benefits!!! That would solve everyone's problem!!!!

Well, maybe not everybody's problems…but we love your optimism.

And on the subject of obesity, low-carb diets and assorted other weighty issues, we keep getting emails.

One MNB user wrote about proposed changes to the "food pyramid":

If we looked at the data I'll bet we could find a direct correlation between the start of the childhood obesity "epidemic" and the change from the four basic food groups to the existing food pyramid. Wouldn't it be a great world if the USDA decided to publish a simple strategy of common sense consumption instead of a statistical analysis that will drive more of the intended audience into a state of apathy, and possibly obesity.

MNB user Denise Remark wrote:

Hmmm...what could it be? Perhaps monitoring caloric intake, consuming a balance of whole grains, veggies, protein, etc., and exercising; and, let's not forget DISCIPLINE. God help us if nutritionists have to think about this- it should be 2nd nature to them. Additionally, continuing to push manufacturers for better quality ingredients (no trans fats, artificial colors & so on) should continue to be a priority.

When will people realize that they cannot consume all the junk food & soda they want, practice a sedentary lifestyle, and not expect to gain weight?

And another MNB user wrote:

Say what you want about the low carb diet, but the bottom line is that IT WORKS! Many people like me do not care very much about bad press coverage or even "potential" long term health risks when you are losing weight FAST!

When you are overweight and find a diet such as this that works, to heck with everything else. I have lost over 20 lbs in just over 3 weeks, feel great, blood pressure is down and can't wait for the introduction of new low-carb options. THANKS Dr. Atkins!

Unless people start dropping dead (and this may not even deter), I can't think of what "fall-out" could occur. The satisfaction of losing weight and the feeling better is underestimated by the skinny people of the world.

Since we've struggled with weight issues for close to 50 years, we are completely sympathetic. And we wish you luck.

But we can't help but worry that 20 pounds in two weeks and an avowed lack of concern about long-term health risks may not be the best way to go.

We referred the other day to coverage on SupermarketGuru about the Super Bowl commercials, which prompted one MNB user to write:

After reading the Supermarket Guru article, it occurred to me that the Super Bowl ads and the halftime show were "perfect together"...

Sad but true.

And another MNB user wrote on the same subject:

What makes this an issue to many is that it is a prime time viewing experience and in the homes of people with impressionable aged children watching. Bathroom humor in commercials and too sexy pictures on the screen may be funny and/or appealing to many, but it has no business on prime time TV with children watching. Children will watch the Super Bowl and should be able to do so without parents having to supervise the commercials and half time. It used to be family entertainment. NOT SO NOW!!!

True but sad.

The other day, MNB posted an email that suggested we were being less than honest when we wrote about a 16-year-old boy who referred to Wal-Mart as "evil." (Subsequently, the writer of that email wrote to say that he wasn't really calling us a liar, and we accept that.) However, we got another email on the subject:

This is an issue near and dear to my heart...

I am the father of three older teens (19, 18, and 14) and find the comments of the 16 year old interesting and more common than the reader implied. While I realize most kids have no clue about these issues, many do. Our kids are aware (and care) because their parents are and do. It's my firm belief that as parents we have the responsibility to allow our kids to be kids, but also to teach them more about the world we live in than sports and television. We regularly discuss issues such as politics, economics, religion, etc. as well as family and community responsibilities with our teens. My children do understand the causes and effects related to our free market system. They also understand the concept of supporting our local business' when possible (much better service, etc.), even if the local Wally may have a slightly lower price.

Shame on the reader for suggesting that the column wasn't honest and shame on him/her if they are of the group of parents not preparing their kids for
confronting these 'community' issues...

We're consistently amazed by the level of sophistication our kids' show about things like politics and government. Our 14-year-old used to be captivated by ESPN. Maybe it's because we're in between football and baseball seasons, but lately he's been interested in watching Don Imus's morning interviews with newsmakers and journalists, and has become a real fan of Chris Matthews and "Hardball."

This makes us all misty.

And go figure. We keep getting email on the Girl Scout cookie controversy, and why some troops are charging $4 a box, and others are charging $3.50.

MNB user Susan Kemp wrote:

As a former Girl Scout leader--the price of the cookies is set by your local council--the troop does not set the price. (In fact, the troop only keeps a small percentage of the profits. When cookies were $3.00 per box, my troop received .50 per box sold. The bulk of the money goes toward product cost, the national GS council and the local GS council.)

The price discrepancy is notable when parents sell at work as they live within the boundaries of different councils. In my own office, I have seen order forms for $3.50 and $4.00 per box.

Another MNB user wrote:

Kevin--you too should check that price. I paid $3 for a box!

Actually, we're willing to bet that there's a troop selling Girl Scout cookies for $2.50 or $2.75 a box. And it's probably a troop in Bentonville, Arkansas…
KC's View: