BY JOHN SARGE
TOLEDO, Ohio - Chanting "Meijer, Meijer, you must know - you can't bust the union in Toledo," 500 unionists marched around the Woodville Road store of the food and discount store giant November 8. The unionists turned out to support the 1,700 members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 911 who are fighting to win a new contract at four area stores. Nine out of every 10 workers rejected the companies' "final offer."
Roberta Rahm, a store employee for six years, explained why she turned out for the protest. "They [the bosses] don't want people with benefits. I've worked here six years and will not have medical benefits again until February because I didn't work enough hours a few months ago. I even offered to pay their costs for the coverage but they wouldn't let me." She also explained that the company has moved to implement its offer by giving workers the miserly wage increase that had been proposed. Another stocker, who asked that her name not be used, explained that her hourly rate went from $5.25 to $5.60 an hour.
Dozens of Meijer workers took part in the march in face of company intimidation. Close to a dozen black-clad "security" guards stood on the roof with cameras, video taping the protest. Local police were prominently parked in the store parking lot.
The stockers and clerks were joined by members of at least 15 other unions, including Longshoremen; Machinists; Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers members from the refinery down the road; Steelworkers; Teamsters; construction trades, and government employees. The largest non-UFCW contingent was from United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 12. Meijer workers leafleted the giant Jeep plant here and many turned out.
The union plans to keep up a campaign to force the bosses back to the bargaining table. The Toledo city council was expected to pass a resolution urging "both parties to return to the bargaining table and conclude a fair agreement as soon as possible." Participants took 10,000 fact sheets printed by the union for circulation on the job and in their neighborhoods. Local 911 announced plans for another protest November 22.
John Sarge is a UAW member in southeast Michigan.
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