Thursday, November 8, 2012

Conflicted

Down the street from me is a grocery store that will remain nameless.  I walk past it every day on the way to and from work and stop in at least 3-4 times a week for small things – fresh bread, fresh veggies, milk, what have you.  In all honesty their prices are slightly higher than the other grocery store in our area, but they get a lot of my business due to proximity.  I figure the slightly higher prices are a wash since I save gas and time that would be spent going to the other store.  And besides, the staff is friendlier, their produce is better and it’s always less crowded.  In short, I appreciate the service and the fact that I can walk there in 3-4 minutes and I have been more than willing to pay a premium for that.  I’ve been shopping there for 8 ½ years and have a great rapport with most of the clerks there and no complaints ever.
Now, here’s the rub:  The grocery workers are on strike.  They have been picketing the store since last Sunday en masse.  All the familiar faces I’ve been seeing for years are now walking around with their signs and bitter faces.  I’m not sure what their demands are and frankly I don’t care.  Out of respect for them I have not ventured into the store since Sunday, but I’m getting a little tired of it.  One of them tried to hand me a flier as I walked past the other day, which I declined, stating “Sorry, but I’ve got no love for Unions.”  And I don’t.  I’m thankful that they were around decades ago, but know I see them as a farce.  Snake-oil.  And I say this as a former Union member, this isn’t some talking point I heard on the news.  I won’t go into details, suffice it to say my personal experience with a labor union, as well as that of some family and friends, has been generally negative.  The common denominator seems to be that the unions care about the union (themselves and THEIR paychecks) more than the actual workers they are supposedly representing (just like Congress!).  And in my 25 years in the "working world", I've NEVER seen more worthless lay-about clockwatching imbeciles than when I was working in a union shop.  There is no motivation whatsoever to become better, to increase your own value, when everything is decided by "collective bargaining".  With all the laws on the books nowadays, the real issues concerning labor are addressed.  Wage and hour, safe working conditions, family medical leave, etc. have NOTHING to do with unions anymore; they are mandated by state and federal law.  While I support anyone’s right to choose whether they belong to a union or not, I do not support unions if I can help it.  Now, in the grocery store world it seems most, if not all, workers are in a union so there isn’t much choice in the matter.  Same with autos.  If you buy an American car, you support labor unions whether you like it or not.  But if I have a choice - for example I hire a LOT of contractors in various trades - I go with the non-union shops as a matter of principle.
So, back to my local grocery store.  I’m getting to the point where I’m finding I want to say “Screw their picket line” and go about my business there.  It’s really simple selfishness on my part.  It’s an inconvenience for me to shop elsewhere.  And like I said, I don’t really care what their demands are; with the economic climate what it is, they are lucky to have jobs at all.  I think they should just suck it up like the rest of us and be thankful for gainful employment.  If you are being mistreated by your employer, go work somewhere else.  Stand on your own two feet, on your own merits as a worker.  Depending on a union is like the nerdy weakling kid hiring the school bully to protect him instead of standing his ground, come what may.  On the other hand, when all this blows over in a few more days or weeks or whatever, is my “relationship” with this staff I’ve known for years going to suffer because I wasn’t supporting them by crossing their picket lines?  It’s not that they are dear friends or anything, but I do see them 3-4 times a week and I’m on a first-name basis with quite a few of them.  It’s just an awkward situation.  I really don’t want to discuss my political ideals with them (and let’s face it, unions are largely a political force more than anything).  How does one support the people, when you can’t support the cause? 
How would y’all navigate this?
Thanks for reading,
~J.L.

2 comments:

  1. I would cross the picket lines and go shopping.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I do cross picket lines and shop.

    ReplyDelete