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The Denver Post reports this morning that one of the issues in the ongoing labor dispute is the desire on the part of Safeway, Albertsons and Kroger’s King Soopers to convert full-time journeymen meat cutters to part timers, and to allow other store employees, such as deli clerks and meat wrappers, to cut meat as “all purpose meat clerks.”

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union argues that meat cutting is a career skill being devalued by the proposal.

Unionized store employees began voting on the “last, best offer” made by the chains last week, but voting was halted when national officials from the UFCW stepped in to review the contract.
KC's View:
What we think really is being devalued by the chains isn’t just the role of the meat cutter, but the need to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Once again, it looks like they are going for lowest common denominator marketing, content with slashing costs without seeming concern for how it affects the shopping experience. If Wal-Mart is to be the role model, once these stores become Wal-Mart clones, what will be the compelling reason for a shopper to pick a Safeway or a King Soopers over a Wal-Mart. It’ll just be price, price, price…and we all know who tends to win that battle.

By the way, we can’t figure out what the angle is in the national UFCW leadership stepping in to stop the voting. If it is because these guys were afraid that the local employees would approve a contract that they didn’t think was a good deal, exactly what kind of leverage will they have with the chains in returning to the bargaining table? And if they were afraid that the local guys would turn down a contract that the national leadership thought needed to be accepted…well, we don’t understand what kind of leverage they have in that case either.

Let the local people vote and decide. After all, it is their lives and livelihoods, not that of union fat cats, that are stake here.