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Activism wins gains at Madison Market

By Darrin Hoop, UFCW Local 21 | October 14, 2005 | Page 15

SEATTLE--More than a year and two months since the contract first expired, the 60 grocery workers at Madison Market Co-op have finally won a new contract with solid gains.

The workers, formerly part of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1105, are now part of a newly merged giant, UFCW Local 21. The local is a product of the Change to Win Coalition strategy of creating huge locals, but workers still had to overcome the same old business union practices.

Management hired an anti-union law firm that had successfully led a decertification campaign against a UFCW contract in Spokane, Wash. The three-member rank-and-file negotiating team survived the unjust drug testing and suspension of one of its members as well as an attempt to recall the bargaining team. Union officials pushed the recall by leaving the ballot box in the break room for over two weeks.

The negotiating team responded by meeting with more than 30 workers and distributing surveys and minutes of negotiations to the entire staff. After management gave its initial "final offer," the vote tied 22 to 22.

We then found out that union officials had campaigned for a "yes" vote and lied to workers, telling them that if they voted "no," it meant we were going on strike! After more campaigns, we voted 27 to 19 to send the team back to the negotiating table.

Management miraculously came up with tens of thousands of dollars in money over the life of the three-year contract. We won bonus pay of 15 cents times every hour worked from when the contract expired on August 1, 2004, until August 1, 2005. There's also a 25 cent an hour raise in the second year retroactive to August 1, 2005, and another 40 cents in raises over the last year and three months of the contract.

Our health care package remained the same, with no givebacks. Language gains included paid paternity leave for the first time, a second shop steward, strengthened seniority language, and a new staff council that will increase the workers' say in day-to-day store operations.

Despite management, the corporate lawyer and the union working against us, our struggle showed in a small way how workers can organize to win a good contract.

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