Santa Cruz Indymedia : http://santacruz.indymedia.org
Home
Santa Cruz Indymedia

Commentary :: [none]

Open Letter to SEIU Local 415

An open letter to SEIU Local 415 regarding their spokesperson's recent statements of support for the location of a Home Depot store in Santa Cruz's industrial Westside.

I am utterly baffled and incensed by the statements made by Leslie Scanagatta (identified by the Sentinel as SEIU Local 415's "chief spokesperson") regarding the City Council's stance toward Home Depot. In that paper, she was quoted chiding the Council for its perceived inaction in allowing Home Depot to build on the old Lipton site in Santa Cruz's industrial Westside. Generally, I am inclined to give people quoted by the Sentinel the benefit of the doubt considering the bias of its publishers and some of its reporters. However, in this case, Ms. Scanagatta's specific mention of Home Depot and numerous other quotes printed in the Sentinel's May 5th article lead me to believe that her comments were not simply twisted out of context.

It completely escapes my comprehension that someone who "works hard to maintain the rights of union workers and fight [sic] for justice for all workers" (quoted from the SEIU Local 415 website, which Ms. Scanagatta herself apparently coordinates) should consider it positive to locate Home Depot, one of the most vehemently anti-union and anti-worker retailers on the face of the planet, in her own community. This is particularly incomprehensible coming from someone who works on the staff of one of the country's more progressive union locals and acts as its Communications Coordinator. It gives the impression that this is the official stance of the SEIU.

If the latter is the case, it leads me to ask, "What are you thinking?!?" Has it completely escaped the attention of Local 415 that Home Depot is one of the worst employers of its size ever to disgrace the retail industry?

[ Hometowns, Not Home Depot I Retail Worker: Labor News - by, for, and about Retail Employees ]
To: SEIU Local 415

I am utterly baffled and incensed by the statements made by Leslie Scanagatta (identified by the Sentinel as SEIU Local 415's "chief spokesperson") regarding the City Council's stance toward Home Depot. In that paper, she was quoted chiding the Council for its perceived inaction in allowing Home Depot to build on the old Lipton site in Santa Cruz's industrial Westside. Generally, I am inclined to give people quoted by the Sentinel the benefit of the doubt considering the bias of its publishers and some of its reporters. However, in this case, Ms. Scanagatta's specific mention of Home Depot and numerous other quotes printed in the Sentinel's May 5th article lead me to believe that her comments were not simply twisted out of context.

It completely escapes my comprehension that someone who "works hard to maintain the rights of union workers and fight [sic] for justice for all workers" (quoted from the SEIU Local 415 website, which Ms. Scanagatta herself apparently coordinates) should consider it positive to locate Home Depot, one of the most vehemently anti-union and anti-worker retailers on the face of the planet, in her own community. This is particularly incomprehensible coming from someone who works on the staff of one of the country's more progressive union locals and acts as its Communications Coordinator. It gives the impression that this is the official stance of the SEIU.

If the latter is the case, it leads me to ask, "What are you thinking?!?" Has it completely escaped the attention of Local 415 that Home Depot is one of the worst employers of its size ever to disgrace the retail industry?

Home Depot gives its workers not an iota of job security. As at-will employees, Home Depot may terminate its workers at any point, with or without cause. The company maintains a policy which states that workers can be terminated in order to facilitate downsizing in a process considerably more brutal than what SEIU workers may be facing at the hands of the City.

Employees are subject to drug testing or search of their personal property at any time. They must agree to very restrictive dress codes and cashiers are not allowed to go to the bathroom without management permission.

On numerous occasions, Home Depot has faced class-action lawsuits alleging sexual discrimination and has been subject to sanctions by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In 2002, the company even cancelled all contracts with the U.S. government to avoid federal laws and executive orders that prohibit employment discrimination and promote the hiring of US armed forces veterans.

Most recently, employees have filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that Home Depot forced them to work off the clock on a regular and consistent basis.

So, tell me: why is it a good idea to welcome a company like this into this (or any) community? Is it just that there are not enough low-wage, exploitative retail jobs in the area? I hardly think so. Are you hoping to bring Home Depot here in order to organize its workers under the SEIU? This might possibly be a more laudable position, but it still falls under the rubric of "things must get worse before they can get better" that more becomes Maoist sects than progressive unions. Or are you so mesmerized by the seductive logics of capitalism and the state that you are willing to sell out your class for the benefit of your own bargaining unit?

According to these logics, addressing quality-of-life issues is simply translated as being "anti-growth". Organizing concerted action to exercise local control is perceived as a "‘not in my town’ attitude". Protesting the increasing homogenization of our everyday lives and commercial encroachment on our neighborhoods is considered somehow anti-union. According to these logics, "solidarity forever!" is supplanted by "all power to the tax-base!".

Are we in Santa Cruz so jaded, so lacking in imagination, that we cannot conceive of a better way to meet one-another's needs—even in the short term—except by introducing an orange monstrosity into the Westside? This is the solution of capitalists, politicians and hopeless policy wonks, not class-conscious rank-and-file workers. There is no denying that Santa Cruz is becoming an increasingly un-affordable town to live in, that slow-growth legislation has driven up housing costs, that NIMBY development opponents often display a remarkable lack of concern for the interests of working people, but to suppose that a big-box store with its own lack of concern for working people and the local community is a step in the right direction is just plain reactionary.

Ultimately, Home Depot will not create wealth in the community. On the contrary, it will suck wealth out of the community and into the pockets of people like Bob Nardelli (CEO of Home Depot), who received a $5 million bonus in 2002 and a $10 million loan in 2000, much of which the company has just indicated will be forgiven. The City of Santa Cruz gets a small percentage of what flows out of the community and into corporate coffers, and, after upper management salaries are paid, a percentage of that then flows to SEIU members. This is trickle-down economics at its finest.

Like all communities, Santa Cruz is not lacking in wealth. It, like most communities, lacks an adequate measure of wealth or an equitable system for its distribution. Examples, historical and contemporary, for better arrangements abound. Local, alternative currencies, for instance, help communities weather the fluctuations in money flowing into and out of the community that so characterize our current dilemma in the public sector. Mutual aid organizations, unions in particular, can play a key role in organizing—*gasp*—mutual aid among their members and in the community. I should think this would be a better use (if perhaps a more difficult one) of the SEIU's energy, resources and clout than advocacy for anti-union corporations.

A substantial reason for—and symptom of—our present economic predicament, particularly locally, is the fragmentation and atomization of our social bonds. This process can be reversed with the leadership of unions like the SEIU or it can be exacerbated by homogenizing corporations like Home Depot. Let's get our priorities straight.

In Solidarity,
Fhar Miess
IWW x347544

For more information on Home Depot, see the links below:

www.sprawl-busters.com/hometown.html
www.retailworker.com/

The original Sentinel article can be found at:

www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2004/May/05/local/stories/02local.htm
 
 


New Comments are disabled, please visit Indybay.org/SantaCruz

Comments

Re: Open Letter to SEIU Local 415

Our union has not adopted a position on this issue. Individual members of our union are allowed their individual opinions.

Personally I support Leslie Scanagatta's right to the opinion presented in the Sentinel, although, as someone who has been misquoted in that same paper myself, I would also ask people find out what she really said. The article is so misinformed as to say that our union with its thousands of members has only 415. SEIU 415 is the title of our union not our numbers.

It is my opinion that the struggle between the local small capitalists, who are in their majority horrible in their treatment of workers and the unemployed, versus the larger national chains that are moving in, is a struggle where workers have no stake. Many small capitalists are worse than the bigger ones because they are under bigger pressures due to their smaller profit margins. Locally the poor have been subjected to a vicious police state in support of the prejudices of these petty capitalists and I have no stomach for defending them.
 

Re: Open Letter to SEIU Local 415

For more important issues facing our union see the following articles:

Schwarzenegger and Democrats Gut Workers’ Compensation in California
santacruz.indymedia.org/newswire/display/8978/index.php

Protest Hits Schwarzenegger's Proposed Cuts to the Elderly and Disabled
santacruz.indymedia.org/newswire/display_any/7026
 

Calendar

No events for this day.

view calendar week
add an event

Views

Media Centers

Syndication feeds

Account Login

This site made manifest by dadaIMC software