Santa Cruz Indymedia :
Santa Cruz Indymedia

Re: Grocery Strike Reality Check

The Union's position on the healthcare controversy seems more reasonable now that I have read the information available.
If the union's opinion about what the Safeway employees are supposed to contribute is accurate, these folks face a daunting challenge paying for healthcare. I don't have a family of 4 to put on health insurance. But the cap of $1.35 per hour (see the flyer posted on )for the employer contribution to an employee's health plan is barely enough to cover the cost of health coverage for a single person, with about a $70 per month contribution from the employee. That is about the same as what I am paying at my current employer for my own health coverage.

What is the real problem is how to cover the costs of multiple family members on these proposed health plans and when (or if) the family members or the employee will ever become elligible for coverage. That's probably where the outrageous figures of $400 per month for the employee's contributions to the health coverage for a family of 4 comes from. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure how much my employer charges for the same coverage, but I would not be suprised if it is comparable. Certainly the Safeway claim that the employees will only have to fork over $5-$15 per week to maintain their current level of benefits is bogus.

What is even more outrageous though is the content of the following flyer that I was passing out at the Safeway picket at the Morrisey store in Santa Cruz on Feb 14th:


70,000 grocery workers have been on strike for almost four months in Southern California. They are fighting to keep affordable health care insurance -- something that all working families have earned. Safeway CEO, Steve Burd, wants to slash health care and turn Safeway into Wall-Mart. He is proposing lower wages, reduced benefits and in some cases -- NO BENEFITS. This is an attack on middle class Americans, and that is why we are here.

WHO ARE WE? We are Monterey County Central Labor Council VOLUNTEERS made up of concerned citizens and Union members, including UFCW members, in the tri-county area. We know that the strike in Southern California will affect all working class Americans and we are fighting against CORPORATE GREED to protect the interests of all workers.


* Safeway demands that new hires, with wages barely above the minimum wage, wait 12 months for medical coverage, and their dependents must wait 3 years for medical coverage. Newly hired baggers will start at the minimum wage, they will wait 19 months for medical coverage and they will NEVER have dependent coverage. If and when these new employees do qualify for benefits, the medical plan will be funded at 75% less than current employees. They will get whatever 25% of the current plan will buy.

* The current employees have been asked to make $5 & $15 co-pays into a plan that is currently underfunded. That means the $5 & $15 co-pay proposal is a "SHAM". The current employer proposal is not enough to cover the cost of maintaining benefits. The proposal directs the trustees of the insurance fund to REVISE benefits to fit what the employers are willing to pay. This will result in a 50% cut in medical benefits in addition to the $5 & $15 co-pay. This is NOT and has NEVER BEEN about $5 & $15.

* Retirees living on fixed incomes will also be covered under the same plan that will have benefits cut up to 50% and they will be required to pay 25% of the total cost of the plan.

Please don't be misled by Safeway's lies. Grocery workers are willing to pay their fair share. But Safeway said NO and walked away from negotiations and refused to let the issues be decided by binding arbitration. WHY? Because they don't want to be FAIR. THEY HAVE NO HEART. THEY ARE BAD CORPORATE CITIZENS.

Safeway's proposal will force employees to rely on overburdened public health care programs. As Safeway sends working families to government healthcare programs, its profits rose 80% over the last 5 years. CEO, Steve Burd pocketed $24 million in 2003. Californians shouldn't have to pick up Safeway's bill as it pushes families into taxpayer funded health care programs.


Join us to tell Safeway we won't shop until you stop attacking health insurance.

For more information or to volunteer, please contact the Monterey Bay Labor Council Solidarity Movement at 831-633-1869. For more information see .

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