By Cameron Fure
MNA Political Organizer
As consumers, we have considerable power with where we choose to spend our dollars. Corporations and businesses respond to consumer demands and market trends by changing their product mix and how they deliver services to their customers. Here’s what we can do to ensure our hard-earned dollars support fairness and equality in the workplace.
For starters, we all gotta eat, but most of us don’t give much thought about which grocery store we support beyond their prices or product selection. As with most things in life, not all grocery stores are created equal when it comes to how they treat their workers. These people cut, clean, and prepare our food. They mop our store floors. They take care of the food we eat.
Wages and benefits, guaranteed hours, and having a say in your workplace are important issues to members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW). Workers at the Eastside Co-op in Minneapolis recently voted to form their own union.
“I have been working at Eastside for seven years. Forming a union is going to help workers have a voice and support each other,” said Eastside Food Co-op cashier Molly Garner-Puff. “We want to make sure our co-op continues to be a sustainable store for the workers and the neighborhood.”
Average wages and benefits are higher at union grocery stores. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $645 in 2016, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $622. That’s a difference of almost $1200 over one year. We all know that when workers earn good wages, the entire community benefits. This income has a ripple effect because these workers shop too. These workers are more likely to afford healthcare and less likely to be dependent on government subsidies. Union workers generally enjoy respect and dignity on the job, job security, and safer work environments.
Union grocers have better and more affordable insurance and retirement security. This is also from a ten-year government study.
“Recent data from the NCS show that union workers also tend to have greater access than their nonunion counterparts to most of the common employer-sponsored benefits. Union workers generally have greater access to retirement benefits, medical benefits, and most types of paid leave. The union workers’ greater access to employer-sponsored benefits tends to be reflected in higher average benefit cost levels.”
Supporting other union workers is one of the strongest ways we can support each other. Many members of UFCW supported striking Allina nurses in their battle for a fair contract last year. Members walked the picket line, donated food, and gave money out of their own pockets.
UFCW Local 653 and UFCW Local 1189 represent workers throughout the state of Minnesota. These workers have collective bargaining agreements with scores of retailers throughout the state. You can search these two websites for the store near you. Local 653. Local 1189. You can also identify a UFCW grocery store by looking for the UFCW logo on the window of the entrance to your store of choice.
Let’s all remember our union brothers and sisters before we go through those electric doors. They’re taking care of us to ensure we have a clean and safe shopping experience. Shop union!