No, this isn’t the latest dispatch from the war-torn Middle East or the Ukraine, and the bunker here is a well-appointed lawyer’s office or a suite at the local Hilton.
But warfare is an apt metaphor for the endless battle surrounding labor relations and the war of words between retailers and unions—a war that is likely to escalate.
Retailing is seen as an increasingly viable route to economic development and job creation in many areas of the country, making the industry and its workers a more attractive target for union organizers. And in an industry that can have a 200% or 300% annual employee turnover rate, union organizers don’t have it easy. But sometimes things go their way. A case in point: The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which handles retail employees, got a boost from the National Labor Relations Board’s recent decision that a group of 41 cosmetics and fragrance workers at a Macy’s in Saugus, Massachusetts, could unionize. This precedent- setting decision may be a sign of things to come in retail, if unions are allowed to go after specific groups rather than having to organize an entire store.
In Southern California, the UFCW has reached a tentative accord with major supermarket chains covering 70,000 employees from the Mexican border to Monterey County, temporarily averting a debilitating walkout like the one that took place 10 years ago.
But these Californian chains will have to battle the Teamsters when negotiations begin on a new contract for drivers and warehouse workers this time next year. [Read more…]