Underpaid Union Picketers

This story in the Las Vegas Weekly has some of the richest irony I have ever seen:

The shade from the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market sign is minimal around noon; still, six picketers squeeze their thermoses and Dasani bottles onto the dirt below, trying to keep their water cool. They’re walking five-hour shifts on this corner at Stephanie Street and American Pacific Drive in Henderson—anti-Wal-Mart signs propped lazily on their shoulders, deep suntans on their faces and arms—with two 15-minute breaks to run across the street and use the washroom at a gas station.

Periodically one of them will sit down in a slightly larger slice of shade under a giant electricity pole in the intersection. Four lanes of traffic rush by, some drivers honk in support, more than once someone has yelled, “assholes!” but mostly, they’re ignored.

They’re not union members; they’re temp workers employed through Allied Forces/Labor Express by the union—United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). They’re making $6 an hour, with no benefits; it’s 104 F, and they’re protesting the working conditions inside the new Wal-Mart grocery store.

“It don’t make no sense, does it?” says James Greer, the line foreman and the only one who pulls down $8 an hour, as he ambles down the sidewalk, picket sign on shoulder, sweaty hat over sweaty gray hair, spitting sunflower seeds. “We’re sacrificing for the people who work in there, and they don’t even know it.”

Compare with this section later in the story:

Inside, the store manager at the Stephanie Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market says he’s perfectly happy with his job, and that his insurance is fine.

“The average rate of pay for Nevada Wal-Mart workers is $10.17 an hour. We have a good insurance program, and every associate—even part-timers—are eligible for the 401k,” says Mark Dyson. “There’s actually different levels of insurance, dental and medical—I have a $500 deductible, but there’s no cap on it. Some other companies’ plans have a $1 million cap, but here there’s no cap. For example, not long ago we had an associate whose husband needed a liver transplant, and that alone was $600,000; but they didn’t have to worry about a cap.”

For the least comprehensive medical coverage, Wal-Mart workers pay from $17.50 for individual coverage and $70.50 for family coverage biweekly, according to the company website.

What has happened to today’s labor union? Do they really care about the plight of the worker, or are they more interested in bringing down Wal-Mart? Reminds me of a recent column I wrote….

Giant hat tip to Mike Antonucci and his weekly Communique.

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