UFCW President Bashes You Know Who

Discussion
May 20, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

When it comes to Wal-Mart’s prices, it’s not unusual to hear a retailer say something such as “they’re selling it for cheaper than I can buy it.”

Why then, does Joseph Hansen, international president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) believe supermarkets can compete on price?

Mr. Hansen told the Detroit Free Press, “We think the regular grocery stores can match them in prices, can match them in efficiency, (although) maybe not in everything.”

The UFCW’s president added, “People have to look at what those (Wal-Mart’s) low costs bring. They bring lower wages and a lower tax base to the community. Wal-Mart shoves some of the services that other employers provide, particular health care, off onto the community. That’s what you get with the low prices. You might save a dollar, but you’re threatening your own job and you’re certainly creating a worse situation for your own community.”

Although Mr. Hansen’s union has failed repeatedly in its attempts to organize Wal-Mart, he argues his condemnation of the retailer isn’t a case of sour grapes.

“The UFCW sees Wal-Mart as not just a problem for the UFCW. We see it as a problem for all the workers in America. Wal-Mart claims to be about low prices, but when you look hard at what the company is, it’s low wages, no benefits, high turnover. It’s turning our economy into a Wal-Mart economy. We’re going to have a low-wage, no-benefit economy, and we’re slowly but surely, and in some cases not so slow, we’re being driven down toward the bottom. It’s not good for our country.”

Moderator’s Comment: What are your thoughts on Joseph Hansen’s assertion that supermarkets can match Wal-Mart on prices
and efficiency? What must management and unions do to become, if not even matches, at least more competitive in these areas with Wal-Mart?

It is at times such as this we wish we knew the icon to represent the raspberry sound online.

It seems disingenuous of Mr. Hansen, to say the least, to suggest supermarkets can compete with Wal-Mart in pricing and operating efficiency without mentioning
his members will need to substantially improve their own performance.

George Anderson – Moderator

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