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The Catalina Islander
Avalon, California
August 26, 2011     The Catalina Islander
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August 26, 2011

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No Joy in Mudville EVERYONE LOSES IF VONS WORKERS STRIKE OP/ED BY CHRISTOPHER BLEHM It's the conundrum of the 21st century. Union workers feel they are being treated unfairly. They face increased health care costs, and, in some instances, lower wages. At the same time, employers rake in billions in profits. The union work- ers scream "unfair!" and threaten a strike. Simulta- neously, the corporations insist that failing to adjust benefits in our new, and not so pretty, economy would result in an unsustainable future. This is how picket lines get drawn. Realizing the serious- ness of the current gro- cery situation, the stores, including Vons, and the workers, have met over fifty times since the last labor contract ex- pired in March. A meeting with a federal mediator is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 29. Both sides need to come to the table and cut a deal, or everyone will lose. The strike of 2003 cost the stores $1.5 billion, many families their savings as they attempted to ride it out, strained relations in our town (where there is no other op- tion), and sent Trader Joe's, Target, and Whole Foods chuckling all the- way to the bank. Over 90 percent of South- ern California's 60,000+ grocery workers voted to authorize a strike, well in excess of the 2/3 necessary. This raises the stakes. Rick Icaza, president of Grocery Workers Union Local 770, said, "Our members overwhelmingly authorized a strike because they want a fair contract, not a walk- out. The offer from the employers is not complete or fair. The super- market corporations' healthcare offer would significantly increase out of pocket costs for struggling families and bankrupt our health Chris Blehm Columnist care benefits before the end of next year. Their offer just be- gins with pre- miums. The corporations don't offer enough mon- ey to fund the benefits themselves and the plan will run out of money within 16 months, eliminating ALL ben- efits and health care coverage for 62,000 grocery workers." " The first part of this statement sounds accurate. The second sounds like saber rattling based on highly theoretical numbers. Ac- cording to commentary on gener- ally conservative KFI talk radio, veteran workers pay nothing for health care (much like teachers). Most pay $7 a week for individ- ual health care coverage, and $15 a week for a family. The stores want to increase that number to $9 and $23 respectively. This sounds paltry, and hardly the grounds for walking out on a secure, salaried job with good benefits. Bill Han- del, the KFI commentator, goes on to mock the skill level (or lack thereof) necessary in these jobs. While it appears true that learn- ing the job duties of a checker would require less training than other union positions such as a teacher, fire fighter, auto assem- bler, one should not demean the difficulty of the job. That is a lot of time spent on the feet, going con- stantly. However, there are a lot of folks with shovels, hammers, and mops in their hands shaking their heads right now at the celebration of grocery workers' sweat. The truth is probably some- where in the middle. The stores need to realize that if a deal isn't cut, many shoppers will simply go to Trader Joe's. That's how you lose a billion and a half dollars in five months. The workers need to recognize that there is nowhere near the level of support there was in 2003. DO the union leaders re- alize the percentage of customers who would kill to pay $23 a week for health care coverage for their entire family? You will see many of these families crossing the pick- et line, laughing all the way to the produce isle, while the two mem- bers of the family who have been unemployed for months fill out ap- plications for scab positions. It just won't work. Lastly, if the kids can't figure out how to play nice, at least leave us out of it. In a community with no other options, asking our workers to strike is unfair all around. It's un- fair to a community that needs their groceries to live. It's unfair to ask the workers to pressure their neigh- bors who have no other option. It's everything that is wrong with the situation statewide in the first place, compounded by 26 miles of ocean and no I urge our in city unions, to reach an Failing least show a-modi and common out of like one of those GOLF BY THERESA CO The Hotel St. The Hotel St. con St. is a Avalon. On the and Metropole is a Victorian stands out amon surrounding it. John LaFleur Manager ing in 1989. He leaders, both and grocer both sides to on Monday. them to at of decency and leave us this feels or nothing sit- on Bea- in the City of the hotel e structure that the buildings the General the Islander uations. On Monday we will find out if.logic and cooperation win the day, or if everyone strikes out. Christopher Blehm is a regu- lar columnist and a member of a teacher "s union that simultaneous- ly protects and sometimes embar- rasses him. His new novel, "'Mercy of the Elements. "" is available lo- cally and on Amazon and Kindle. this week about purchasing the golf cart located in front of the hotel. "I was on the mainland at a small coffee shop and there it was on a bulletin board 'For Sale.' It's a replica of the era we were try- ing to represent so I grabbed it and we painted it to match the hotel," LeFleur stated. At the time, it was running and for about 20 years was used in town parades and became a land- mark in Avalon. The Islander met up with the current General Manager Jacob Vanderwiel at the Hotel St. Lau- ren this week who told us, "The engine stopped running about two years ago but we keep it outside as a display." "THE WRITE STUFF" Are you a writer, or would like to be. one for the Catalina Islander. The paper ts seeking to expand its editorial horizons. New reporters and guest columnists are welcome. For more information, contact the Islander publisher at or call (310) 510-0500. City of Avalon NOTICE NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that a vacancy exists for two positions on the Planning Commission for an unexpired term ending June, 2012. Any citizen interested in serving on this Commission can pick up an application from the City Clerk, at City Hall, 410 Avalon Canyon or Box 707, Avalon, CA 90704. Applicants must reside in the City of Avalon nine months out of the year. Deadline for filing is Friday, September 23rd. Appointments will be made at the October 4th Council meeting. Denise Radde, City Clerk Posted: August 19, 2011. Published: 08/09/2011 and 08/26/2011. 24- 7 - 365 Life !~light Helicopter or Air Service, Ground Ambulance, Vehicle 50 US States, Mexico~ Canada, No Deductible - No Co-Pay - Forms - No Age Restr Singleor family ,erage All for under Group payroll are also available Recommended i 7 Charles "Chuck" Martin. Broker and MASA 'n and More in Claim a da' !! &BLAIR 4 ~ Friday, August 26. 2011 THE CATALINA ISLANDER