Culture, Justice

Protest Walmart as a business model

No walmart!A recent letter from CLUE (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, in Los Angeles) reminded me that the grocery wars continue. When I left LA, the unions of several major grocery chains had declared victory in a strike that had gone on for months with little visible success. These grocery chains, and others, are now continuing their race to the bottom in attempting to use Walmart as a model for the future of the grocery industry.
The grocery industry was once a great provider of middle class jobs> it has now decided to take the low road to increasing profits to their CEOs by decimating benefits and wages. Why? Is this because the grocery business has suddenly become more risky? Has the grocery industry suddenly begn to see great losses? Are they worried abut going out of business? No.
In fact, Ralphs, Albertsons and Vons made record profits last year: over $8.3 billion dollars. Nevertheless, they’ve taken this record profit level as an opportunity to slash wages and drop health insurance benefits. Oh, yes, and provide big bonuses to their CEOs: according to CLUE:
“CEOs David Dillon, Jeff Noddle and Steve Burd last year took home bonuses that amounted to $27.2 million. That money went directly into their pockets, while the families that keep the stores running can’t afford basic human needs.”
CLUE has now partnered with Robert Greenwald, the director of “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price,” and the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) to launch a campaign to help the grocery workers get a fair deal. And they need your help.

If you live in Southern california, sign the letter, ask your rabbi to sign the letter, ask your synagogue to sign the letter as an organization. If you live elsewhere, pay close attention- this fight may come to your doorstep next, and even if you live elsewhere, write to them; these are national companies. They should know that the country is watching and cares:

If you have not already, sign the letter to grocery CEOs asking that they be responsible towards their workers (see below). Over 70 religious leaders from across the LA area have already signed in support of grocery workers. Once signatures have been gathered, there will be a public event to deliver the letter and ask industry leaders to respect their workers. If you are interested in adding your name to the letter or participate in the event, please let me know and I will get you more information.
Watch the video:
The supermarket chains have already announced their intention to lock out all their workers if there is a work stoppage. Please sign the pledge not to shop at Ralphs, Vons or Albertsons stores if they force a lockout or strike.
Sign the pledge:
What happens in Southern California will determine the fate of grocery workers across the country. Let’s set the example here at home and make a difference nationwide.
Host a screening:
On Tuesday, July 17 individuals from across the country will be hosting screenings of “Supermarket Swindle”. You can host a screening with one or more friends, colleagues or family members at your home, office, house of worship, school – the important thing is to participate and help educate others about the irresposibilities of the grocery CEOs. If you would like to participate, please let me know and I can get you the necessary info.
What happens in Southern California will determine the fate of grocery workers across the country. With your support and leadership, let’s set the example here at home and make a difference nationwide.

The letter follows:
Dear. Leader in the Grocery Industry,
I am writing to you now because I am concerned about the health and well-being of families across Southern California and communities throughout the state. As a resident in the Los Angeles area I am well aware of the importance and leadership of the grocery industry as a major source for jobs and community health. I am concerned, however, that both of these areas are worsening under current conditions.
I am aware of recent studies that show the conditions for grocery workers have been continually deteriorating since the two-tiered contract took effect in 2004. The reality of living under a two-tiered contract means that 20,000 fewer children of grocery workers have health coverage than before the strike. Also, before the strike in 2003, 94% of grocery workers were covered by employer-provided health care. Since the contract took effect, that number has fallen dramatically to 56%. Second-tier workers make just above minimum wage upon entry and have lost their once middle-class jobs. These facts are startling when considering that the grocery industry’s profits have stayed very high.
As a leader in my community, the health and well-being of families is an important moral imperative that must be addressed. Again, however, I feel that the grocery industry has failed to live up to these imperatives. The industry’s refusal to supply good and clean grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods has been a detriment to all. Additionally, low wages and lack of health coverage for workers has created higher turnover and poorer service for everyone.
Please be responsible community citizens. Please respect the workers’ needs and get rid of the two-tier system. And please act responsibly, without discrimination, and provide clean and good stores in both high- and low-income neighborhoods.
(name, congregation/organization, city)

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