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Let Consumers, Not Unions, Choose When Shopping for Groceries


With online shopping at our fingertips, small ethnic markets on every corner and an ever-expanding number of options on where to find our groceries, Californians enjoy the freedom and luxury of choice.

This choice allows consumers to determine what groceries they want to buy and where they want to spend their money.

But grocery labor unions struggling to stay relevant in the 21st century have a different idea about the freedom of consumer choice.

They believe consumer choice is “too much of a good thing” and should be artificially controlled by politicians.

Whether it’s a big supermarket chain, supercenter, ethnic market, niche health store or independent grocer, Californians never have to go far to find groceries.

At the same time, these companies are struggling to keep groceries affordable in the face of rising health care costs that threaten grocers’ bottom lines.

Fierce Battle

As grocers engage in a fierce battle for every sale, the winner is the consumer. Grocers know you can find a loaf of bread nearly anywhere, so they must stock their bread aisle with dozens of choices at competitive prices to win your business.

As a result, the intense competition between grocery providers today ultimately benefits grocery shoppers.

Unfortunately, the same changes in the grocery industry that benefit the consumers are also jeopardizing union membership.

The struggle to remain competitive , when combined with skyrocketing health care costs , mean that both union membership and employers must share the burden of increased costs and decreased profits, as with other industries across the nation.

But union leaders are not seeking compromise and instead are crusading to persuade politicians to restrict free enterprise, and ultimately, to end the consumer’s freedom of choice.

After Wal-Mart announced plans for 40 supercenters in California, all of which would operate with non-union workers, the unions launched vocal campaigns to discredit the company and stop the sites from being built.

Relying on their politician friends to pass ordinances and state laws to restrict consumer free choice, the unions and their modern day witch hunts accuse Wal-Mart of many transgressions; including mistreatment of workers, racism and environmental malfeasance.

In addition to slowing Wal-Mart’s expansion plans, the unions are now focusing on Tesco, as it makes plans to enter the market.

Using front groups and underhanded tactics, the unions are trying to stop Tesco, the UK’s leading grocer, from offering more choices to consumers because it might erode union membership.

Ironically, union leadership also has directed their efforts at the three large organized grocery chains in California: Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons.

Bitter Strike

Only three years after a bitter strike had a devastating impact in Southern California on employees, customers and the companies, the unions are at it again.

They are pressuring politicians to punish the companies economically by denying them business licenses and dictating unfair and arbitrary labor costs.

This strategy can only lead to self-destruction.

Rising health care costs, the competitive landscape, and petty tactics employed by the unions will economically harm these companies.

The sad fact is these pressure tactics and media stunts will limit consumer choice and erode the number and quality of union jobs in California.

Grocers, like any business, ought to be able to compete for their customers and consumers ought to be able to choose where they shop, what they buy, and what they are willing to spend.

With a wide variety of grocery options, customers don’t care to hear about labor costs, inflation or the rising cost of ingredients such as corn or milk.

Instead, they demand accessibility and affordability when shopping for their basic food necessities. If we allow the unions to continue to pressure our local governments into economically harming grocers and restricting their ability to operate, it will lead to increased grocery costs and less customer choice.

Customers will no longer have the freedom to choose where they shop , and paying $4 a gallon for gas may seem like a bargain when compared to the price of bread, milk or diapers.

Peter Larkin

California Grocers Association



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