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On the picket line

August 5, 2005 | Page 15

Space Needle restaurant

Madison Market Co-op
By Darrin Hoop, UFCW Local 1105

SEATTLE--The contract fight at Madison Market Co-op is coming to a head with a contract vote August 4. Sixty workers, members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1105, will be voting on a contract that is not recommended by the three-person rank-and-file negotiating team.

The contract expired August 1, 2004. Since then, a new general manager and a store manager were hired with the promise to treat workers better.

Yet soon afterward, one negotiating team member, Suzie True, was wrongfully drug-tested and suspended without pay until the results came back negative

Despite an effort to recall the negotiating team last December, the union has achieved gains in the proposed contract language--for example, a ban on drug testing. All lower-paid courtesy and helper clerk positions would be eliminated, and those workers would automatically be moved into the higher paid classifications.

Other gains include a limit on five consecutive mandatory workdays, two consecutive days off upon demand, two weeks of paid paternity leave after one year on the job and a maximum of six paid weeks after six years. The proposed contract allows a second shop steward and the inclusion of three workers on the five-person "leadership team" that sets store polices.

Nevertheless, the negotiating team is recommending a "no" vote because management is offering almost no financial gains. They're offering a raise of only 30 cents an hour to those workers who've worked over 7,280 hours--roughly three and a half years, with retroactive pay only going to June 1, 2005.

The union is asking for a three-year contract retroactive to August 1, 2004, with a 3 percent raise. We want another 3 percent starting August 1, 2005 and a 4 percent raise in the final year.

Management's wage proposal amounts to only $19,000 a year--compared to the store's $80,000 annual budget for legal and professional services. We should vote no August 4 to send a message to the Co-op that we will not allow them to divide the staff by only giving raises to the highest paid workers.

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Space Needle restaurant
By Ellie Fingerman

SEATTLE--The Space Needle, a longtime symbol of this city, has begun to symbolize corporate greed. Nearly 200 restaurant employees, members of UNITE HERE Local 8, have been negotiating for over two months for a new contract with a management team that's determined to break the union.

Over the past year, the Space Needle restaurant grossed over $13 million in food sales alone. Yet instead of recognizing the role of workers in creating this wealth, the corporation has thrown insult after injury in each step of contract negotiations.

The first signal that they were going to fight rough was the hiring of a lawyer from a prominent, nationally known union-busting law firm. The Web site of the firm boasts of assisting "many employers in winning NLRB elections or in avoiding union elections altogether."

Management used stalling tactics from the beginning, not even putting forward a proposal until a month after the contract expired, and offering no dates available to negotiate.

And the proposal is a slap in the face. It includes a mere 15 cents per hour raise and increases in health care costs. It also maintains a barbaric discipline policy, omits an immigrant workers' rights clause, implements random drug testing and takes away freedom of speech by denying the right to wear a union button and allowing management to censor the union bulletin board.

This is an important labor struggle in Seattle because of the prominence of the Space Needle and the confidence that a successful contract would bring to workers around the state.

UNITE HERE has done a good job of leafleting and involving community organizations--but more focus is needed on the workers themselves. If workers can be mobilized around the key issues, management would be brought to its knees.

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By Glenn Allen

CHICAGO--Walgreens pharmacists in the Chicago area voted to return to work July 25 without a contract, ending a three-week walkout without a contract. Nearly half the union members were crossing the picket lines when the strike ended.

The strike took place despite an offer of an approximately 20 percent pay increase over four years. Demands centered around adequate break times and employee input into staffing levels. Pharmacists at busy stores routinely fill more than 20 prescriptions an hour in addition to other duties.

The key issue was Walgreens attempt to break the union, the National Pharmacists Association (NPhA), with an end to dues paycheck deductions and elimination of the closed union shop. In fact, union members have already received e-mails explaining how to decertify the union.

The NPhA has formed a strategic alliance with the United Steel Workers union, which represents more than 3,000 pharmacists at Safeway and Kroger. The USW intends to continue a publicity campaign highlighting Walgreens' anti-union policies, but no talks have been scheduled with the company.

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