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The Washington Post reports on how retailers on different coasts are taking different approaches to labor relations.

"In California, 70,000 grocery workers have been on strike for four months," the Post reports. "In New England, on the other hand, 37,000 others this weekend settled a contract, averting a strike.

"In the weeks ahead, the biggest groceries in the Washington area, Safeway and Ahold-owned Giant Food LLC, will renegotiate a contract that expires March 27. The open question is which direction the local talks will follow -- the sharp acrimony of California or the compromise in New England. The result will determine the future of 19,000 local grocery jobs that have long offered a reliable path to the middle class."

The different approaches can be traced back to a meeting held two years ago between the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union and the nation's four biggest grocery chains - Safeway, Kroger, Albertsons, and Ahold - at which management said that "grocery workers (would) have to sacrifice some of their generous wages and health benefits…if their employers (were) to have any hope of competing with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other low-cost rivals." But clearly, the Post reports, Ahold has taken a conciliatory approach, Kroger has taken a similar approach h when left to its own devices, but the Safeway/Kroger/Albertsons partnership in Southern California has been much more confrontational.
KC's View:
The question seems to be, what is the price of change? And is the price of not changing even greater?

The line from this story that resonates with us is how "local grocery jobs…have long offered a reliable path to the middle class." The argument that follows from that is that Wal-Mart offers many employees a road to becoming part of the working poor.

We're not sure this is absolutely true, just as we don't buy into reports that paint Wal-Mart as absolute savior or as absolute demon.

But there is a troubling trend here that is being addressed only in the broadest terms, and that nobody seems to be offering answers to.