It was Safeway worker Vivian Sigouin’s day off, but at noon on Tuesday she was walking through the Piney Branch Safeway in northwest Washington, D.C., passing out union buttons and lanyards to her fellow Safeway workers.
“I’ve been letting my co-workers know we have no power if they do not stick together,” said Sigouin, who works in inventory control for Safeway. “I’ve been letting management know we will strike or do what is necessary.”
Sigouin and other Safeway workers leafleted at three pop-up storefront hiring halls set up next to company stores to recruit and train “replacement workers” or "scabs" to staff the supermarkets if the workers strike when their contract, which covers some 25,000 metropolitan Washington-area Giant and Safeway workers, expires at the end of the month.
“Management might think that setting up scab hiring halls right next to the stores where our members work will intimidate them into accepting a contract that puts the American dream far beyond their reach, but instead it’s had the opposite effect,” UFCW Local 400 President Tom McNutt said. “We are more united than ever and more dedicated to doing whatever it takes to ensure that retail jobs in the Washington, D.C., area create a ladder to the middle class with health and retirement security.”
Cheerfully chatting with customers on their way into the Piney Branch Safeway, cashier Satheria Duvernay explained that the supermarket giant was threatening to replace its workers if they didn’t accept demands for givebacks. “All we want is the fruit of our labor for our hard work,” Duvernay said. After 29 years at Giant, Duvernay is on the union’s contract advisory committee for the first time. “Now I’m fighting for everyone,” she said, beaming broadly, “It’s a wonderful movement and the customers are with us!”
With contract negotiations going down to the wire, Local 400 is urging supporters to “let store management know that you support us. Let store management know how you feel about them hiring workers to replace us. Let every one of us that you see wearing a Local 400 button or lanyard know that you support us, too.”
Check the Occupy Giant & Safeway blog for the latest news.