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Bay Area Walmart Workers Involved In Symbolic Walkout

Union organizers are focusing on the Bay Area because of the openings of Walmart Neighborhood Markets in the area, the first of which was opened in San Ramon.

The opening of a Walmart Neightborhood Market in San Ramon last month is one of the reasons some Walmart workers went on strike at five Bay Area stores on Tuesday, union organizers said.

A handful of workers at five Bay Area Walmarts — in San Leandro, Richmond, Oakland, Fremont and San Jose — are at the center of a historic effort to organize Walmart, which has been non-union for 50 years.

At publication time Walmart had not yet replied to an interview request.

The local walkouts are part of a symbolic nationwide campaign involving 28 stores in a dozen states, all coordinated by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW).

Mike Henneberry, spokesperson for UFCW Local 5 in San Jose, offered the union's story.

Henneberry said the walkouts are designed to call attention to the organizing effort. There are no plans to walk picket lines because the union hasn't gotten to that point, he said.

The UFCW is focusing on the Bay Area because that's where Walmart is just starting to open a new category of smaller stores -- Walmart Neighborhood Markets -- that will compete directly with unionized grocers such as Safeway and Lucky, Henneberry said.

Walmart operates about 167 of these smaller stores nationwide but the first Neighborhood Market in Northern California opened last month in San Ramon.

Walmart plans to opened another store in San Jose in October and another Neighborhood Market in Pleasanton mid-2013. 

The UFCW was particularly irate about Walmart's decision to build such a store in Pleasanton because that city is headquarters to unionized Safeway.

"Walmart's new move into the traditional grocery store sector is a departure in tactics on their part and a direct threat to our members," UFCW Local 5 President Ron Lind said in February when the Pleasanton store was up for consideration.

The Pleasanton city council approved Walmart's plans by a 4-1 vote.

A UFCW spokeswoman said many of the workers involved in today's walkout are meeting in Walmart's headquarters city of Bentonville, Arkansas, to plan their next steps.

Are you a Walmart shopper? Have you been to the Neighborhood Walmart in San Ramon? What do you think of the organizing effort?

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Citizen and lifetime taxpayer October 10, 2012 at 01:57 PM
When I was a student paying my way through college by working at a grocery store, the only 'benefits' of a union I directly experienced were: 1. they took away >$100/month in 'dues'. I could have used that to buy books, food, or another education course 2. They 'protected' a 12-person night stocking crew that did nothing for 6 hours but play cards & poker in the breakroom. Then started actually working + working overtime because 'they didn't have enough time to get their job done'. That cost the store and consumers in paying higher prices. And, I see it today. I see union clerical staff surfing the internet and taking personal phone calls. But, they cannot be assigned more work because it requires union approval. They cannot be replaced by someone that can actually be productive because they are 'protected'. Indeed, there was a place for unions in the early 1900's. However there is no place for Unions in today's world. They only protect those that don't want to actually WORK for a living. If someone works and adds value, they get paid what they deserve.
Wicked Sister October 10, 2012 at 02:42 PM
dear citizen and lifetime taxpayer, You very obviously have a limited and skewed view of working within a union. You are also lying. Unions do not protect people who are not doing their job. You refuse to acknowledge what the union did for you, and cry about the dues. You made more than minimum wage, you had an hourly salary, you had time and a half on overtime, you had hours that were preset that enabled you to hold a job while also going to school, you had break time and lunch time, weekends, holidays. I could go on and on, Tired of this same old whine out of the "I got mine and deserve it, but the rest of you can go suck it cause youare not as good as me" repulican boo hoo campaign
Tom Abate (Editor) October 10, 2012 at 03:02 PM
a comment by "m" has been removed for violating the terms of service.
cstars October 10, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Unions do protect all (poor performers are the most protected. In doing so unions end up promoting mediocracy. The top performers do not get paid more, are not promoted sooner and are not better protected from layoffs because protection is not related to job performance. I have talked with managers from multiple industries tell stories of nightmare workers that are so difficult to get rid of because of the months of paperwork and documentation that it would take to get rid of them that it is far easier to try to have them transfered. Unions do still have a place, because let's face it companies would run all over workers if they could, however unions have gotten way out of hand. They are like the overindulged spoiled arrogant entitled children that think they should get whatever they want "because". Unions are not helping the economy. Often they are a contributing factor to the US not being competitive. It is time to put restrictions on unions. They should be about fair wages and safe working conditions and not protecting "entitled" workers.
Concerned Citizen October 10, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Exactly! Think of the teachers who can't be terminated even when everyone knows they are not doing their job. Unions have outlived their usefulness in this country and they have way too much power and influence in our political system as well.
William October 10, 2012 at 04:54 PM
The union can't protect anybody if the store doesn't stay open. That San Ramon Walmart is a awful store. Poor shoddy after thought selection on it's shelves. And I like the Wal Mart super stores, have shopped their many times, great selection of products, but this smaller version is severely lacking with everything. I just don't see it being successful here with people filling their carts. It's a half ass attempt. I'll continue to shop at Lucky and Safeway, thanks.
D. Mom October 10, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Unions were great years ago, but now they hurt more than help. They protect the wrong employees and don't always help the ones with the most need. I also agree with William. I shopped the new walmart last week and was very disappointed. The inventory is sparse and what is available is poor quality. The inside of the store was poorly lit with cheap shelving. Disappointing because I do like the Pleasanton Walmart. I don't think I will shop there again. I still love Target!
So What October 10, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Dear wicked sister. Your assumption that the ONLY way fair wages and hours are dolled out is under the thumb of the union is just angry and wrong. If fact with the abuse that the union system allows (poker in the night shift...) THAT is unfair wages. You assume that a corporation will only do right by the employee if the union, their "protector" requires it. So 1900's. You offer no counter to the reality that Citizen illustrates, of The Protector (union), protecting the worst of workers, and de-incentivizing them to work. You seem completely justified, that corporations SHOULD spend money on union wages, so that one would be free to play poker on the night shift, and then demand overtime pay in order to complete their work. I too have seen this so many times, it's hard to defend.You insinuate that it's the republicans who are whiners and angry. ha.
Carolyn October 10, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Thank you well said! I've experienced similar after paying into union dues for almost 38 years!
Debora Killeen October 10, 2012 at 07:12 PM
I really don't see a problem in having both union and non-union stores in any area. Granted all the mom and pop stores are gone now because of all those stores anyway. Walmart has given much needed jobs to those in need and Safeway, Luckys, Nob Hill etc. are still supplying jobs. There are enough people in the community to shop at all stores. I don't see people driving from Livermore to shop for groceries in San Ramon! If all the companies play their cards right(and I don't mean playing poker in the breakroom) they can all work together in supporting the community with food etc. You can find something wrong with everything if you really are looking for it. Enjoy the spice of life and stop complaining. Go out and make a difference in the community where it really is needed like the Drug Epidemic,
Sandy P. October 10, 2012 at 07:25 PM
I have shopped recently at the SR Walmart, and was pleased with their selection of everyday products. I found pasta brands I was looking for as well as the regular Raug, Classico pasta sauces and what not. Wide selection of Kellogs, Quaker and other popular cereal brands too. Similarly it had sufficient variety of dog and cat food, also found the Garnier and other popular haircare products & facial creams that I needed. Overall, pleased!
William October 10, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Yeah like that's real opinion. And I used to work at that location when it was Albertsons for a couple of years. Sorry, I just don't see it doing well. No bakery, no deli. Just a very sterile feeling with very meh selections. I'll probably go back again and see if it's changed because I like to eat at Mexxis a little ways down. And I wouldn't feed my pets any major brand pet food from any chain store especially from Wal Mart. The kind of pet food sold by large grocer chains are filled with by products and fillers. Pet food like that should only be used if you want your pets to have a shorter life span due to kidney failure.
Citizen and lifetime taxpayer October 11, 2012 at 01:19 PM
I got paid minimum wage as required by state & federal law. I received overtime as required by state & federal law. I received breaks as required by state & federal law. I had NO CHOICE BUT TO JOIN THE UNION to work there. I WAS FORCED TO. Unions support healthcare nurses etc to WALK OUT ON SICK PEOPLE DESPITE THE SICK PEOPLES NEED FOR CARE AND BEING A MATTER OF LIFE OR DEATH for them. Unions do no more than protect lazy people and increase costs and risks for us all.

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