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On the picket line

April 1, 2005 | Page 11

Madison Market
By Darrin Hoop, UFCW 1105

SEATTLE--Fifty people packed the monthly Madison Market Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting March 22. At a meeting that normally gets at best a handful of workers or members of the Co-op to attend, this one was standing room only.

The unprecedented turnout of workers, community members and shoppers was in response to a wave of harassment, firings and workers' hours being cut by management. The Co-op is currently in contract negotiations with the 70 grocery workers of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1105.

The contract first expired last August, and we've been working under a contract extension since then. Since harassment began last November, hours have been cut in every department, and some cuts have led to de facto layoffs with workers only having one or a couple shifts in a week.

Anger exploded among some staff and members of the Co-op when Beau Ingraham, a cashier and elected representative to the BOT, was fired for "insubordination." He was fired on the word of two managers--without any real investigation. Several cashiers and a customer who witnessed the incident dispute management's version of events, and though they are willing to make statements, they have yet to be interviewed.

Much like the contract campaign here three years ago, management is once again crying "poverty," saying the store is in too much debt to offer us a fair contract. They've again hired an anti-union lawyer, offered no general wage increase and are pushing a "management's rights" clause that would give them "unilateral" power to subcontract work or to change existing work rules at any time.

The show of solidarity at the BOT meeting forced the board to re-elect Beau on the spot. Co-op members also presented a petition--signed by more than 90 members in less than a day--calling on the BOT to investigate Beau's firing and look into a number of other issues raised by staff members. After a two-week hiatus, contract negotiations began again March 28.

The next step is to build for an even bigger turnout at the next BOT meeting on April 26. Continuing to organize and build solidarity between the workers at Madison Market and supportive community members will be key to winning a good contract.

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