Safeway Strike Gets Hotter, But Also Suffers Setback

by Charles Walker

November 1, 2000 — Teamsters Local 439 in Stockton, California, has filed unfair labor practice (ULP) charges against Safeway. More than that, the union has given some of its chain-store strikers ULP signs mounted on lath-like boards. Previously the strikers limited themselves to passing out small boycott handbills.

The union was advised by lawyers not to use signs and poles, or even walk up and down. In other words, the union was not to give the appearance of violating the secondary picketing law, which forbids unionized workers from acting in solidarity with other unionized workers, unless there’s a primary picket line.

Safeway claims that it’s not a party to the strike. The union says Safeway owns the huge distribution center it is striking, that Safeway owns all the equipment, and has admitted to paying part of the costs to fight the union. In other words, the strikers are saying, if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck!

In recent days, the media has reported spot shortages in many Safeway locations. Safeway has laid off up to three hundred part-time workers. The retail clerks union says it is helping the workers to find jobs, and hasn’t forgotten that, in 1995, distribution center Teamsters were laid off because of the retail clerks’ nine-day strike against Safeway that year.

It’s no surprise then that Safeway is asking the courts to stop what reportedly it says is “union trespass and damages on its premises.” That’s what the company calls the union’ s boycott leafleting. If the union can turn the boycott into a primary strike against Safeway, not just hundreds of Teamsters who are retail drivers, but 20,000 retail clerks will be able to honor the strike, and not put their jobs in jeopardy.

What a wonderful Thanksgiving it could be if Safeway’s goose was cooked in time for the holidays!

Strikers Dealt a Setback by Hoffa Supporters

NOV. 6 — The striking Safeway Teamsters have to be feeling bad, after hearing that at least three local unions in Teamsters Joint Council 7 (JC-7, in the San Francisco Bay Area) turned down the strikers’ pleas for help and solidarity in their battle against Safeway, a chain-store leviathan, and its proxy, Summit Logistics.

The bad news was delivered last week at a JC-7 meeting called to hear a strike report by Local 439, of Stockton, California, and its principal officer, Howard Remfer. At one point, Rome Aloise, secretary-treasurer of Local 853, of Hayward, California, took the floor and demanded to know if Remfer was a member of Tom Leedham’s slate. According to observers, Remfer readily acknowledged that he is running for vice president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) from the Western region on the Rank-and-File Power Slate, headed by Tom Leedham, pricipal officer of Local 206, of Portland, Oregon.

In that case, Aloise said, he was not going to help out, and noisily led three locals out of the meeting. It’s not clear how many other Teamster locals will stand with Aloise and withhold their critically important support from the Safeway strikers.

However, Secretary-Treasurer Van Beane of Local 85, a San Francisco freight local, declared that his union would adopt some Safeway stores for leafleting, as did representatives from Local 890, of Salinas, California, which is currently into the 15th month of its picket-line battle with Basic Vegetable.

Aloise’s Local 853 is a major union in Northern California, growing rapidly in recent years, due to takeovers of at least four other Teamster locals. Local 853 is located in an up-to-date office building, its officers enjoying above-average salaries and benefits. Aloise is a JC-7 officer, as are two brothers-in-law, Steve Mack (Local 78) and Chuck Mack (Local 70), often described as Aloise’s mentor.

Clearly, Aloise’s belligerent walkout resembles the behavior of a punch-drunk factionalist. The Safeway strikers are sure to be watching to see if Aloise’s behavior is repudiated by Teamsters President James P. Hoffa. Hoffa has repeatedly claimed that he wants to end factionalism in the IBT and unify the international union. Hoffa denies that his trusteeships of certain local unions headed by political opponents were politically motivated.

Of course, if Hoffa remains silent and doesn’t correct Aloise, a close Hoffa supporter, then Hoffa’s professions of unity may be seen by the ranks as hypocritically self-serving and as false as a street-corner harlot’s professions of love. And who could blame the ranks?