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"We have a stake in the grocery fight"

By Karl Swinehart | November 21, 2003 | Page 15

LOS ANGELES--Solidarity efforts are continuing for 70,000 locked-out and striking grocery workers entering the sixth week of their struggle. As Socialist Worker went to press, 100 people--including representatives from at least a half dozen other unions--picketed a Pavilions store, which is owned by the supermarket giant Safeway.

And the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor is launching a "No Turkeys" boycott in the weeks leading to the busy Thanksgiving season to put more pressure on the supermarket chains. The boycott campaign comes in the wake of last week's massive solidarity action of LA's harbor workers. International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) members shut down the nation's largest port for one evening and held a demonstration of 6,000 outside an Albertsons to support the United Food and Commercial Workers' (UFCW) battle against corporate greed.

The grocery workers' strike in California--as well as other grocery strikes in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia--has put a spotlight on the growing health care crisis in the U.S. That's why so many people have come to identify with the grocery workers' struggle.

"They're fighting for benefits this year that we may be fighting for next year," said Hildreth Simmons, a teacher for 37 years who joined the picket of the Pavilions. "Just as they have a stake in education, we have a stake in their fight."

If other unions follow the example of the ILWU, and the UFCW escalates its battle against these corporate giants, grocery workers can win their battle to defend their health care benefits and the very existence of their union.

The Feminist Majority Foundation and other women's organizations have endorsed the turkey boycott, emphasizing that women comprise the majority of grocery store shoppers and a significant portion of the workforce. "As working moms, we have to make sure our kids have the health care they need when they need it," said Lucy Medler, a 20-year employee of Safeway-Vons, in a radio spot sponsored by the UFCW. "Now, this giant corporation wants to slash our health care--not because the company isn't making a profit. It just wants more."

Despite a smear campaign by management that accuses grocery workers of the terrible "crime" of having better health care insurance than many customers, spirits remain high. "It's gone longer than we anticipated," said John Abrahamian, who's worked at Ralph's since 1979, through high school and college, because of the good benefits. "But we're going to take it to the end."

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