July will mark the one-year anniversary of the establishment of Local 5 picket lines at Walmart Neighborhood Markets in Pleasanton and San Ramon.
Maintained entirely by Union members and retirees seven days a week, the effort is focused on alerting potential customers that the world’s largest retailer is undercutting the area standards that grocery workers have built over many decades, says Local 5 staff member and picket line coordinator Simone Mock.
“Wages, benefits and working conditions at Walmart are inferior to those paid by the stores that employ our members and that gives the company an unfair competitive advantage gained off of the backs if its workers,” says Mock. “When our members on the line explain to customers that the few pennies that they may save on a basket of groceries is a threat to good grocery jobs in their community many turn away or promise not to return.”
Local 5 retiree Ray Miller, a former Safeway produce worker in Hayward, has been a regular on the picket line since its inception. Ray and other pickets engage with customers about the issues and in the heavily unionized Alameda County, often succeed in their goal to turn potential shoppers away. In fact, employees have reported up to a twenty percent decrease in business since picketing began.
“I loved working at Safeway and thanks to the Union, I enjoy a nice retirement,” Ray explains. “By being out here I am helping to protect the Union that protected me for thirty-four years on the job.”
Store employees are subjected to a barrage of anti-union propaganda including videos targeting Local 5. While they are reluctant to talk to Local 5 members on the picket line, many privately thank Ray and the others for standing up for them. “Walmart can afford to do better,” he says.