business news in context, analysis with attitude

Go figure. Safeway and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) have finally found something that they can agree on, even as they engage in a four-month-long strike/lockout in Southern California.

The East Bay Business Journal reports that both Safeway and the UFCW are urging voters in Northern California's Contra Costa County to vote "yes" on a March 2 ballot initiative that would ban the opening of "big box" stores larger than 90,000 square feet that devote more than 5 percent of their space to nontaxable merchandise, like groceries.

In fact, they’re not just urging a "yes" vote, they’re spending money - reportedly as much as $1 million between them - to turn out the anti-box store vote.

That's a lot of money. It is roughly double the amount reportedly being spent by Wal-Mart - which isn’t named in the referendum, but clearly takes it personally since it wants to open 40 supercenters in California over the next five years, including at least one in Contra Costa. According to the Arkansas retailer, it has spent $577,000 to overturn the Contra Costa ordinance banning such stores, including $177,000 to gather signatures that created the referendum to begin with.

The contra Costa County Board of Supervisors passed the ordinance last June, saying it was concerned that nonunion chains such as Wal-Mart were hurting the union chains and union members because they paid lower wages and offered lesser benefits.

And that, as it happens, is a position that Safeway and the UFCW can agree on.
KC's View:
Raise up our voices in song now, brothers and sisters, in a rousing chorus of "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."

Say amen.

It's nice to know that the UFCW and Safeway can agree with something when it is in their own self interest; it'd be even nicer if they could build on that empathy to develop a workable, sustainable relationship in markets like Southern California. After all, if they both agree that Wal-Mart is the enemy - not each other - then maybe they could come up with some sort of plan that would have them working together.

After all, Wal-Mart is a threat both to Safeway's bottom line, and to the livelihoods of the UFCW's membership. (And let's not forget Albertsons and Kroger, both of which also have a stake in the Southern California debacle, but from all reports seem to have been less militant than Safeway.)

Deal with the real threat! Stop beating up on each other in a way that does nobody any good!


By the way, it has to be noted that the million-dollar expenditure by Safeway and the UFCW may be a little suspect, since one of the places it has been reported has been in Wal-Mart's propaganda. In this case, Wal-Mart seems to be portraying itself as the underdog in this fight…which is, in itself, its own special kind of crock.