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Money-grubbin’ capitalists

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Von's Supermarket StrikeNormally, I don’t go home for lunch, but I was fighting off a head cold this morning and I wanted to get some Comtrex. As I drove down Harbor (past the Von’s where strikers held a banner that read “Corporate Greed vs. Human Need”), I spotted an old man on the side walk. As I got closer, I saw he was meekly holding out his thumb. It took a second to register that this old coot was hitchiking.

So I drove around the block, pulled up along side of him and asked him if he wanted a ride. He was so grateful.

“Can you believe I’m only 93 years old,” he said as I helped him into my 4Runner. He was not even five-feet tall, and thinner than a fishing rod.

I asked him where he was going and he told me were he’d been.

“I’ve seen a lot in my 93 years,” he said, “and I just can’t cross a picket line.”

As near as I can piece together from his story — he got a cab ride to Von’s, asked the cabby to wait while he went in to buy some tofu, and then decided he wanted to go home. Whether it was the same cabby or a different one, I don’t know, but the cabby wanted $8 for the 1-mile ride back to his trailer park. “I normally only pay $6,” he said. So he decided to walk.

I offered the old man a ride to Trader Joe’s to buy some tofu. “Nope, I can’t cross a picket line,” he said. I tried to explain that Trader Joe’s was non-union. “Nope. I can’t do it.” So, I stated the obvious. “But you’ve got to eat.” He shook his head and said, “I’ve got plenty of food in the house.”

Leaving my apartment after the Comtrex break, I drove through the Von’s parking lot. There had just been a two-car accident on Harbor, right in front the picketers. The Von’s crew was busily rolling up their banner, folding up their chairs and getting off the sidewalk. Within minutes, there were no picketers on Harbor. Make of it what you will.

I crossed my first picket line this morning. I didn’t go to my regular Von’s, but to another one a few blocks away. I got there at 10 to 9, but the sign said the store wouldn’t open until nine. So I waited. No picketers approached me, and I didn’t see them initiate contact with any other shoppers while I waited. This group seemed far more docile, and with fewer people participating, than my local Von’s.

When I went to check out, the poor girl at the register couldn’t figure out how to ring up apples. It was nearly five minutes before another checker could help her.

The press coverage of the strike is improving, and thankfully my own paper finally did a good, balanced, fact-filled story. And here’s some video. Here’s an LAT story concentrating on the health care issue. Also, the main strike story from the LAT. Even the New York Times has picked upon the story, finally.

After work, I stopped at my local Von’s for a steak. It was utter chaos. The picketers had all of their kids out waving picket signs and yelling at customers and passersby. They were on their skateboards and bikes, which is something that is normally banned in the shopping center parking lot. But the security guard just sat there watching it all. Not that he could have done much, I guess. While I was in the store, you could hear the employees outside hootin’ and hollerin’. If somebody broke out a BBQ, it just would have been another day at the beach.

Some carried signs that encouraged customers to go to Trader Joe’s.

Am I the only one who thinks it’s hypocritical of union workers and union supporters to be telling shoppers — don’t cross our picket line, but go shop at one of the non-union grocery stores (locally that would be Lassen’s and Trader Joe’s and Jue’s Market)?

That just seems wrong on so many levels. First, it’s disloyal to your employer (of course, if you cared about loyalty, you wouldn’t be in strike). Second, your encouraging profitability for stores that employs non-union labor, labor that isn’t paid what you’re paid or enjoying the benefits you receive. You are really telling those other workers — screw you, we’ve got ours, so keep slogging away in your non-union slavery. Third, you’re telling your customers, be loyal to us, even if it means that you’ll have to spend more money on gas, drive further, not get all the items you need or want and have to put up with longer lines. Aren’t you really saying, screw you, just help us get what we want, while you benefit not at all? Besides, think of all the extra emissions in the air because of people driving their cars further to shop! And the leftists support this action?

It’s not like there hasn’t been attempts to organize Trader Joe’s. And that worker’s there are happy. There are those out there that believe all of the small chains should be organized. There’s even a union web site that tells you NOT TO SHOP at Trader Joe’s specifically because it is non-union.

Not only that, but Trader Joe’s has also run afoul of many progressive groups, such as here, here, here, and here.

As far as I can tell, Trader Joe’s is just as money-grubbin’ as the next sweatshop supermarket.

So what advantage is there for the union members from Von’s to encourage their customers to shop at Trader Joe’s, if not self-interest, greed and/or an unwillingness to see this issue from any other perspective but their own?

And that’s my supermarket post for the day. My previous posts can be found here and here, and the Blogcritic’s verion here (if this subject interests you enough, you’ll want to read the comments on these posts as well).

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About Howard Owens

  • http://mcfrank.blogspot.com Chris Arabia

    Howard, allow me to preempt our Dear Saint Elsewhere, recently canonized for walking two extra blocks to get his food elsewhere: you heartless miscreant, how dare you deviate from the party line, whatever it happens to be at any given moment.

  • JR

    So what kind of mileage does your 4Runner get around town?

  • http://fando.blogs.com Natalie Davis

    IMO, it was wrong of the picketers to suggest going to a nonunion shop. Corporate greed is corporate greed.

    Kudos to the old man. What an inspiration he is! Thanks to you for giving him a ride.

    And, yes, what kind of mileage do you get in your 4Runner?

  • http://mcfrank.blogspot.com Chris Arabia

    yes howard, what kind of mileage do you get? and were your parents proletarians? peasants? oh, they were members of the bourgeoisie? okay then, come with us…

  • JR

    “yes howard, what kind of mileage do you get? and were your parents proletarians? peasants? oh, they were members of the bourgeoisie? okay then, come with us…”

    Now now, that’s not helpful. Howard’s trying to save money, remember? Some of us are just trying to offer some cost-cutting tips.

  • Eric Olsen

    My advice is never trust anyone whose first name is “Trader.”

  • http://www.howardowens.com/ Howard Owens

    It gets exactly what I hoped it would get for the enjoyment it gives me and what I paid for it.