In Harsh Economy, Union Demands Put Crimp in Businesses Across the Country: Recent Stories Surrounding California Grocer

-By Warner Todd Huston

The biggest union news this month is the pending closing of the Hostess Brand snack cake corporation, a company that has been an American mainstay for decades with such products Wonder Bread and Hostess Twinkies. As with the Hostess case, unions repeatedly prove that they’d rather destroy a business with absurd demands and strikes than work with management to keep the company alive in these tough economic times.

Another Illustration of the continued and alarming trend of unions destroying the businesses they work for with absurd contract demands is going on in California, the state with the worst economy and one of the worst business climates in the country.

Recently Raley’s Family of Fine Stores, a north central California-based grocery chain, and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) reached an agreement over a strike that had workers walking the picket lines for nine weeks. Naturally, the company put a brave face on this agreement but both the strike and the agreement have put a strain on the company that can’t help it survive in this horrid economic climate.

The California economy, one of the worst in the nation, was already hurting the grocer before the union decided to make an attempt to squeeze blood from the stone by forcing a strike on the company. The company had reported that many of its locations were already losing money — to the tune of millions per year — and even took the unusual step of allowing union reps to look over the books to prove the fact. Naturally, despite the facts being made readily available to them, the union continued to deny that Raley’s was in dire financial straits.

Some of the demands that the union made on the grocer were ridiculous. In one instance union bosses demanded that Raley’s give “amnesty” to any employees that were caught assaulting customers or engaging in property destruction during the strike.

The union also demanded that the company pay striking workers a “signing bonus” to get them back to work. And why not, Safeway — another grocer in the area — paid it. But, imagine that! The union thought it was fair that they’d quit working, then demand that the company pay them bribes to return to work! That isn’t a negotiation, it’s outright extortion.

And while the union is claiming the financially stressed grocer is stingy and must pay employees more, the local UFCW head is living the high life off the backs of the union’s membership. It is reported that Jacques Loveall, President of the UFCW in California, makes over $274,000 a year. Loveall is also featured as one of the top entries in a list of Sacramento’s highest paid executives. I’ve even heard that this union bigwig drives a Lamborghini and has put a private plane at his disposal. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree, either, as Jacques is just carrying on the “family” business inheriting his throne from his father, who enjoyed similar perks at the expense of real working men and women. A real man of the people, that.

This particular strike also indulged a loathsome practice that is becoming commonplace in strikes throughout the nation: the use of non-union people, often paid below minimum wage, to walk picket lines. Imagine this situation, won’t you? A union strikes because members feel they aren’t getting paid enough yet not only are they not interested enough in their own strike to walk picket lines themselves, they hire scabs to do the picketing. And then the union pays the scabs peanuts to do the picketing. This hypocrisy is happening in strikes everywhere, not just California.

This strike is reminiscent of another recent strike of a grocer in Tacoma, Washington. In a strike against a small downtown grocer — the only grocery in the whole area — even those who would have nominally supported the strikers got sick and tired of the whole situation. In that case the company was hurt and so were the customers.

Unions are wearing out their welcome all across the nation, it seems.
“The only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”
–Samuel Johnson

Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer. He has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and before that he wrote articles on U.S. history for several small American magazines. His political columns are featured on many websites such as Andrew Breitbart’s,, and, as well as,,,,, among many, many others. Mr. Huston is also endlessly amused that one of his articles formed the basis of an article in Germany’s Der Spiegel Magazine in 2008.

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