If there's a grocery strike, what will you do?
A Flickr photo Workers picket a California Albertsons in 2003
Have you worked out your supermarket strike plan?
If you haven't, now might be a good time.
Although the corporate execs and lawyers at Safeway, King Soopers and Albertsons are still negotiating with the familiar, name-tagged faces who ring you up at your local grocery -- and their union overlords -- that could change on May 30, when a twenty-day extension of the current union contract expires.
At that point:
1) Everyone involved could decide on another extension (likely)
2) Safeway workers could strike (unlikely at this point, although they have already voted to authorize one). If that happened, King Soopers and Albertsons would lock out their union employees in solidarity with their corporate brother.
3) The big three grocery chains could unilaterally decide to lock out their union employees and bring in temporary workers (highly unlikely).
If one of the latter two scenarios takes place, either at the end of May or this summer, you, the consumer, will have a decision to make: Continue to shop at a Safeway, King Soopers or Albertsons by crossing the picket lines and facing the wrath of your familiar, name-tagged acquaintances, or find another place to shop.
During a four-month strike/lockout in Southern California in 2003 and 2004, union members handed out flyers with directions to a fourth, local union chain called Stater Bros. The CEO of Stater Bros. curried favor with the United Food and Commercial Workers by refusing to lock out his employees and by agreeing to sign whatever contract was eventually negotiated by both sides.
As a result, Stater Bros. made a lot of money during those four months -- as did non-union supermarkets like Trader Joe's.
We don't have Stater Bros. in Colorado -- or Trader Joe's, for that matter -- but we do have Whole Foods, Sunflower Farmer's Market, Costco, Super Target, Super Walmart, and numerous small markets. And all of them will be licking their lips if there is a strike.
And you should figure out your plan. Cross the picket line or find a Whole Foods. It's going to be a hot summer, and you're going to want something to eat.