Just before the November 6 election, workers at the Raley’s-Nob Hill supermarket chain in Northern California went on strike over health care benefits. By the fourth day of the strike, politicians and labor leaders walked the picket lines and irony dripped from the skies.
Two days after California voted overwhelmingly for President Barack Obama and his health care plan — and for Governor Jerry Brown and his tax plan — the human resources manager for Raley’s told the striking workers that retired employees are at least age 65 and eligible for Medicare. “We’re just asking to switch them from the Raley’s benefits to Medicare,” she said.
The United Food and Commercial Workers union saw things differently. “Raley’s-Nob Hill is intent on undermining the medical coverage for active and retired members that has taken decades to build up along with reducing your take-home pay,” said the UFCW bargaining team. “They have continued to illegally bargain in bad faith.”
Yvonne Walker, President of SEIU Local 1000, agreed with the UCFW.
“We have been asked by the UFCW for support in their strike against Raley’s by not shopping at Raley’s or Bel Air for the duration of the strike, ” Local 1000 President Yvonne R. Walker said. “I would also ask that you adopt the Raley’s closest to you, volunteer support and stop by and give encouragement. We need to show Raley’s management that Local 1000 stands with our brothers and sisters of UFCW Local 8.”
On Nov. 8, the Sacramento Bee reported, Walker joined the picket line.
Two Democratic Sacramento politicians, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, stopped by to speak to striking workers at the Raley’s on Freeport Boulevard in South Land Park. Yvonne Walker, president of Local 1000 of the Service Employees International Union, was also there, and Assemblyman Richard Pan was expected later in the evening.
But solidarity is only skin deep. Labor trouble has been brewing for months within SEIU Local 1000 itself.
A messy fight between California’s largest state employee union, SEIU Local 1000, and another union that has represented 160 of its staff has spilled into public view.
As they battle for those workers, the United Auto Workers is calling Local 1000 a hypocritical union-buster. An official with the National Labor Relations Board says SEIU, as an employer, has engaged in “unfair labor practices.”
The biggest issue, according to UAW Local 2350 — the staff union for SEIU 1000 and other affiliates — is health benefits. A few excerpts from the UAW 2350 web site:
According to people who work at SEIU 1000 and CSEA, UAW 2350 has been holding worksite meetings where Yvonne Walker is described as a “ringleader”, a “union buster” and “the Mitt Romney of California unions.”
Workers there have until November 30 to select a new health care plan during open enrollment, or be forced into the basic “catastrophic plan” against their will.
Meanwhile, the Raley’s strike is over, notes the national media, and Yvonne Walker is back in her Local 1000 office in Sacramento. A search for news about Walker’s own union-busting activities returns the lone story from the Sacramento Bee, back in September.
For Walker, the old adage surely rings true: No news is good news.