President Joe Biden wants to revitalize the nation's labor unions.
At their peak, unions represented more than a third of American workers. Now, after several decades of continuing decline, less than 10 percent of workers in the private sector are part of organized labor.
The decline is partly because American manufacturing has moved offshore to escape a less-than-friendly business climate created by politicians. But it's also because over the years, union leadership has cozied up to progressive politicians who push policies at odds with the interests of the rank and file.
On his first day in office, Biden signed an executive order killing more than 10,000 good-paying union jobs. But that's not the first-time middle-class jobs have been sacrificed to win favor with the vocal progressives who have come to dominate the Democratic Party.
Over the past ten months, the United Food and Commercial Workers' Union has been pushing demands that don't mesh with the interests of its members for what one presumes are political reasons. UFCW International President Marc Perrone has been demanding of some of the nation's largest grocery chains the introduction of hazard pay for members working during the COVID pandemic.
Initially,the demand was for $2 an hour. Now it's up to $4 or even $5 an hour in several cities on the West Coast, backed by city and county politicians whose campaigns the unions have funded.
Shortages caused by the lockdowns have created unprecedented challenges for grocers and their frontline employees. The union's attacks on these companies, who have invested billions in their stores to improve safety measures, ignore the facts. Its continuing complaint that workers are still at risk overlooks how grocery chains like Kroger are now offering $100 bonuses to employees who get the coronavirus vaccine.
A letter to the editor recently in the Los Angeles Times said it well: "I fully agree that the grocery store workers are heroes. However, how does requiring them to be paid more solve the problem here? Are we saying to workers that it's OK if you get sick, so long as you are paid more?"
No matter how much hazard pay the union can arrange, it will never be enough. The UFCW and Marc Perrone care more about headlines and proving they can flex their muscle than they do about the impact their demands have on working American families.
In Long Beach, California - the first city to mandate additional hazard pay for grocery workers - Kroger will close two underperforming stores because the order increased labor costs by more than 20 percent. Hundreds of workers, most of them UFCW members, are losing their jobs because the politicians got for the union what it demanded. If these shortsighted policies persist, this could become the new normal.
A recent study from the California Grocers Association found California's hazard pay ordinances could raise grocery costs for the average family of four by $400 a year. At the same time, somewhat ironically, Perrone and other UFCW leaders have refused to suspend weekly dues payments during the pandemic. Being able to temporarily forgo those payments would help households stretch their budgets and be a real economic stimulus that could increase purchasing power by hundreds if not thousands.
Perrone may think the more than $350,000 he gets in compensation is more important than the $15 an hour paid to the average member of his union working 40 hours a week. He also seems to think more of non-union chains like Trader Joe's, which he has praised for boosting so-called "hero pay" to $4 during the pandemic to pressure Kroger, Albertson's, and other chains.
He fails to mention, of course, that Trader Joe's CEO admitted the pay bump means midyear raises are canceled and that it might not last if cities "continue to increase the hourly rate above $4 or have the premium remain after the pandemic."
Recently, Kroger, Albertson's, and Ahold made multi-billion-dollar pro-worker investments to secure and stabilize the pensions of more than 50,000 unionized grocery workers. These chains put people over profits since the UFCW was significantly underfunded. Yet Perrone still spends millions in dues money for personal gain and a salary 12 times greater than what the average union member makes.
Most grocers provide employees fair wages, industry-leading benefits like pensions and healthcare, and COVID-19 vaccines. What does the union do?
Copyright 2021 Peter Roff. Distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Peter Roff is a senior fellow at Frontiers of Freedom and a former U.S. News and World Report contributing editor who appears regularly as a commentator on the One America News network. Email him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Peter Roff