Business Practices of Southern California Grocers are Still Unsustainable for Most Workers in 2007
Álvaro J. de Regil
This Brief makes an assessment of the new contract between unionised workers and three major grocers in Southern California. Albeit the grocers gave back much of what they took away in the strike of 2003 - 2004, grocery workers cannot yet aspire to enjoy a dignified and sustainable livelihood, and they will remain like that for as long as the market continues to take precedence over people.
The wages paid before the strike and the new wages to be paid cannot be regarded as living wages. What we are witnessing, despite the efforts of the UFCW, is the clear pauperisation of workers on behalf of the defence of the shareholder value of the institutional investors of the grocery chains. Not only are the majority of grocery workers receiving hunger wages, but they are increasingly being used as commodities, as part time workers. This pauperisation makes their livelihood completely unsustainable, and deprives them from enjoying a dignified standard of living.
This is a structural problem that negatively affects everyone but the upper echelons of society. It is this Darwinian logic that, by placing the market over the welfare of people, it is destroying the welfare of communities across the world. This means that there is no reason to feel good about the outcome of the negotiations. To be sure, the results obtained by the UFCW are both commendable and far better than in the previous situation. Yet they only mitigate the suffering and do not address the real issue: despite the fact that corporations directly derive their wealth from the members of society as consumers, they are imposing their interest over people at the expense of the long-term sustainability of society.
In this way, in regards to the three grocery chains, it should be clear that they are far from practising a sustainable business model. This ought to make us think that, as conscientious and responsible consumers, we should have no reason to support these grocers with our consumer power.