Boycott Watch
January 12, 2004
UFCW boycotts Safeway supermarkets in California as part of a strike:
A boycott by any other name…
Summary: Boycott may violate union contract
   The United Food and Commercial Workers Union are striking Safeway supermarkets in Southern California over a labor dispute, the key to the negotiations, according to the union, is that Safeway wants to eliminate health care benefits which the UCFW will not agree to. A federal mediator is in contact with both sides, but there are no direct talks currently taking place. The strike started October 11, 2003.

   The UFCW is engaged in 'extended picketing' according to a national spokesman, and they are asking customers not to shop at the stores, which is by definition a boycott.

   Boycott Watch contacted UFCW spokeswoman Ellen Anreder, who is concentrating on the Safeway effort. "We are encouraging consumers not to shop at Safeway during the current labor dispute", says Anreder, referring to the 86 day old strike, and called it a 'lockout.' According to Safeway, there is no lockout at Safeway, but a lockout exists at 2 other supermarket chains that are under the same union contract because the contract calls for a lockout.

   Boycott Watch asked Anreder if she considers this to be a boycott, to which she responded: "To be honest, I would refer you to the international headquarters, which is instructing us not to use that word. The goal of 'Operation Shop-Out' is to empty the stores and drawers. It's a shop-out, not a boycott."

   There is currently no end in sight to the dispute. "No talks are currently scheduled, but we hope that the employers will come back to the tables" says Anreder "we stand ready to talk to them at a moments notice and we hope the employers will be reasonable. The last time we met with them, we offered a comprehensive proposal with $.5B, that's B as in Billion, in cost reductions, but we have had no counter proposal. It's difficult to negotiate when there is no counter offer. We hope that talks will resume now that the holidays are over."

   Unions are careful not to use the word 'boycott' because of the legal ramifications when it comes to negotiations. Unions, for example, can not legally boycott a company to encourage it to accept a union. There may also be ramifications to boycotting or calling for a boycott during a strike because many labor contracts forbid boycotts during the term of the contact, strike or renegotiations.

   "I can understand why you are writing about this" Said Anreder. By definition, UFCW's 'Operation Shop-Out' is a boycott. Not only have the UFCW's striking members and their supporters agreed not to do business with Safeway stores, they are also encouraging others to join into their boycott. Brian Dowling, a spokesman for Safeway, did not want to go into detail because he could not immediately reach the company's legal experts, but since some contracts specifically forbid boycotts, Safeway could contend that 'Operation Shop-Out' violates contract provisions and file grievance or a breach of contract lawsuit against the union.

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