All of a sudden I’m seeing “help wanted” signs popping up. At least three local employers are advertising that they are accepting applications. There’s one minor drawback. The job is temporary, and it will require crossing a picket line. With the grocery workers voting to authorize a strike Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons are all looking for potential replacement workers. Albertsons is advertising a $10 an hour wage for inexperienced clerks, $13 an hour for experienced workers.
The grocery workers have been working without a contract since March and the stumbling block, from what I read in the news, appears to be a requirement for workers to pay an additional $9 a week for individual health coverage and another $23 to cover their families. Grocery workers currently have very generous health coverage. Workers hired before 2004 pay nothing for health insurance while those hired later pay either $7 a week for single coverage or $15 a week for family coverage. If I reach the point where I am eligible for health insurance at my current job I will pay over $110 a week ($442 a month) for family coverage – or over 4 times what the grocery store workers are being asked to pay.
Of course many workers – courtesy clerks (baggers) for instance – don’t make much more than minimum wage and the increased health costs may be a real hardship for some. But with so many people out of work I’d think twice about walking away from my job. There are plenty of people who are desperate for work. Desperate enough to cross a picket line.
Post-script 9/19/11 – The strike has been averted. The union and grocery stores have come to an agreement described as a ‘win-win’. No need for temporary workers, no need to cross picket lines, no income for the unemployed who filled out applications and have been waiting the past 3 weeks to see if they might have work.