Tuesday, February 10, 2015

UFCW and Safeway, Plastic Bag Bans, and Discrimination Against Working Americans

As one of my current jobs, I work as a checker-cashier at the local grocery store.

I love my job. I do not like being part of a union which spends a portion of my money, taking by force through dues, on candidates and causes which I do not support, and over which I have no say.

Currently, I have spoken with members of my union, the United Food and Commercial Workers, and many of us do not feel united with all the goals and purposes of the union.

I was particularly offended when I learned that UFCW worked with Safeway to pass the statewide plastic bag ban in California.

This law is a war on working men and women who want to pay their bills, live their lives, and just want a little help carrying their groceries from store to home.

The argument from many people suggest that getting rid of the plastic bags is necessary to protect the oceans and the environment, as well as ending waste and destruction of our streets. The fact is that this pollution is the responsibility of irresponsible individuals who litter without regard for their cities and communities. The bag ban goes too far, punishing law-abiding citizens for the wrongs of the few.

Another question arises. .

Why would the labor unions work with their big business allies to push this anti-worker, anti-liberty proposal? KQED News reported the backroom Sacramento shenanigans which took an apathetic legislature from voting "No!" to switching votes and banning plastic bags:

Shortly before the state Assembly approved on Thursday a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, Republican Assemblyman Don Wagner pointed out the measure had failed on a floor vote just three days earlier.

For the record, the Republicans voted against this bill, and they still voted against the revised version three days later.

What had changed, however, was that a powerful union had shifted its stance on the measure. And when the bill was called to a vote several minutes later, it had picked up six additional Democratic votes – enough to pass. The legislation will likely see a final vote in the Senate on Friday.

Which union was that? The United Food and Commercial Workers, the same union which supposedly represents me and thousands of other working Americans, who will now have to pay more for their groceries, all in the name of protecting the fauna of sea.

One of the arguments focused on enforcement of the ban, which will require more legislation.

But on Wednesday, the union was back to supporting the measure. Sam Rodriguez, who’s representing UFCW at the Capitol, said the union had reached an understanding with executives at Safeway, one of California’s largest grocery chains — not on any amendments to the bill’s current language, but to make sure the fee revenue was being spent where it was supposed to: on the costs of complying with the new regulations; buying paper bags; and educational campaigns for consumers.

“We look forward to working together to ensure the provisions in the law are adequate,” Rodriguez said. He hinted that cooperation may involve a new bill next year.

Where will the money for brown bags go to, anyway? Will it go toward protecting the environment? Will it help our schools or pave California's deteriorating infrastructure? First, a reminder that there is a fee for brown or recycled plastic bags with this legislation:

In addition, there will be a 10 cent minimum charge for recycled paper bags, reusable plastic bags, and compostable bags at certain locations.

Who gets the money? The corporation does:

So why would stores want to inconvenience their customers by not providing “free bags”?  Excuse me … the stores didn’t inconvenience their customers, it was the city or county that passed the bag ban and inconvenience their residents.  The store just blames the city or county!  But the truth is that the stores are in full support of the plastic bag ban and the shift towards using reusable bags.  They even sent representatives from the California Grocers Association to public meetings to testify that grocers supported efforts to ban plastic carryout bags.

Big Business and Big Labor supported Bag Ban
Well. But there is more to this story:

So what is in it for the stores?  The city or county passes an ordinance that bans distribution of plastic bags and require that the customer pay a fee for paper bag.  The fee is intended to encourage people to use reusable bags instead of the more expensive single-use paper bags.  So stores now sell paper bags for 10 cents each and sell reusable bags to customers.  In other words, carryout bags are now a profit center rather than an overhead cost.  (Myers, 2013)

This ban has never been about protecting the environment, but rather about Big Business forcing a tax on local, individual concerns, all in the name of "protecting the environment".

Is there no hope against Big Government discriminating against working Americans through the plastic bag ban? The American Progressive Plastic Bag Alliance submitted well over eight hundred thousands signatures to repeal the plastic bag ban. Huntington Beach, California, otherwise known as "Surf City" just repealed their ban, following the ouster of two pro-ban incumbent and the change of mind from other incumbents.

Because the signature initiative gathered enough support, the bag ban is on hold until Election 2016. California voters should vote "No!" to SB 270 in November next year.

In the mean time, I will be informing my union members about the very union which is supposed to represent them, and in fact is making deals with the very businesses which they claim to oppose.

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