The Observer. (La Grande, Or.) 1968-current, March 02, 2021, Page 4, Image 4

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Tuesday, March 2, 2021
Other Views
Workers’ jobs
losing to politics
resident Joe Biden wants to revitalize the
nation’s labor unions.
At their peak, unions represented more
than a third of American workers. Now, after sev-
eral decades of continuing decline, less than 10% of
workers in the private sector are part of organized
The decline is partly because American manu-
facturing has moved offshore to escape a less-than-
friendly business climate created by politicians. But
it’s also because over the years, union leadership has
cozied up to pro-
gressive politicians
who push poli-
cies at odds with
FRONTIERS OF FREEDOM the interests of the
rank and file.
On his first day
in office, Biden signed an executive order killing
more than 10,000 good-paying union jobs. But that’s
not the first time middle-class jobs have been sacri-
ficed to win favor with the vocal progressives who
have come to dominate the Democratic Party.
Over the past 10 months, the United Food and
Commercial Workers’ Union has been pushing
demands that don’t mesh with the interests of its
members for what one presumes are political rea-
sons. UFCW International President Marc Perrone
has been demanding of some of the nation’s largest
grocery chains the introduction of hazard pay for
members working during the COVID pandemic.
Initially, the demand was for $2 an hour. Now it’s
up to $4 or even $5 an hour in several cities on the
West Coast, backed by city and county politicians
whose campaigns the unions funded.
Shortages caused by the lockdowns have created
unprecedented challenges for grocers and their front-
line employees. The union’s attacks on these com-
panies, who have invested billions in their stores to
improve safety measures, ignore the facts. Its con-
tinuing complaint that workers are still at risk over-
looks how grocery chains like Kroger are now
offering $100 bonuses to employees who get the
coronavirus vaccine.
No matter how much hazard pay the union can
arrange, it will never be enough. The UFCW and
Perrone care more about headlines and proving they
can flex their muscle than they do about the impact
their demands have on working American families.
In Long Beach, California —the first city to man-
date additional hazard pay for grocery workers
— Kroger will close two underperforming stores
because the order increased labor costs by more than
20%. Hundreds of workers, most of them UFCW
members, are losing their jobs because the politi-
cians got for the union what it demanded. If these
shortsighted policies persist, this could become the
new normal.
A recent study from the California Grocers Asso-
ciation found California’s hazard pay ordinances
could raise grocery costs for the average family of
four by $400 a year. At the same time, somewhat
ironically, Perrone and other UFCW leaders have
refused to suspend weekly dues payments during the
pandemic. Being able to temporarily forgo those pay-
ments would help households stretch their budgets
and be a real economic stimulus that could increase
purchasing power by hundreds if not thousands.
Perrone may think the more than $350,000 he
gets in compensation is more important than the $15
an hour paid to the average member of his union
working 40 hours a week. He also seems to think
more of non-union chains like Trader Joe’s, which he
has praised for boosting so-called “hero pay” to $4
during the pandemic to pressure Kroger, Albertsons
and other chains.
He fails to mention, of course, that Trader Joe’s
CEO admitted the pay bump means midyear raises
are canceled and it might not last if cities “continue
to increase the hourly rate above $4 or have the pre-
mium remain after the pandemic.”
Recently, Kroger, Albertsons and Ahold made
multibillion-dollar pro-worker investments to secure
and stabilize the pensions of more than 50,000
unionized grocery workers. These chains put people
over profits since the UFCW was significantly
underfunded. Yet Perrone still spends millions in
dues money for personal gain and a salary 12 times
greater than what the average union member makes.
Most grocers provide employees fair wages,
industry-leading benefits like pensions and health
care, and COVID-19 vaccines. What does the union
Peter Roff is a senior fellow at Frontiers of Freedom
and a former U.S. News and World Report contributing
editor who appears regularly as a commentator on the
One America News network.
Our View
GOP walkout may succeed —
in killing Capitol quorum rules
o you think Gov. Kate
Brown should do more
to get schools to reopen?
Do you think the state should do
more to vaccinate seniors sooner?
Do you think the state should
look to speed up the reopening of
Those are reasons why Oregon
Senate Republicans held a pro-
test and walked out of the legis-
lative session Thursday, Feb. 25.
The GOP says their efforts to get
Brown’s attention on these issues
have gone unacknowledged. So
they held a walkout.
Yes, they got her attention. But
Republicans didn’t compel her to
make any changes. And we can’t
imagine she will fundamentally
change her approach.
Perhaps Senate Republicans
did succeed in a few ways. Just
getting people’s attention these
days takes more than making
a speech. The protest got the
Oregon public’s attention for at
least a news cycle. And in that
moment, Republicans highlighted
what the difference might be if
they were governing.
They also reminded their
fellow legislators they still have
the power to shut down the
making of new laws.
Oregon is one of only a
handful of states that requires by
its constitution that two-thirds
of lawmakers must be on the
Senate floor and the House floor
for work to be done. The narrow
Democratic margin in the Senate
means the Democratic majority
is not walkout-proof. A walkout
is one of the only raw powers
Republicans in Oregon really
For how long? Will voters tire
of this tactic? It seems inevitable
that through a bill or an initiative
a measure will get on the ballot
for a constitutional amendment to
Unsigned editorials are the opinion of The Observer editorial
board. Other columns, letters and cartoons on this page express
the opinions of the authors and not necessarily that of The
• The Observer welcomes letters to the editor. We edit letters
for brevity, grammar, taste and legal reasons.
• Letters should be no longer than 350 words and must be
signed and carry the author’s name, address and phone number
change Oregon’s quorum rules to
a simple majority.
That might not be something
to celebrate. Yes, it would work
in the favor of Democrats now. It
is, though, one of the few avail-
able tools to prevent a tyranny of
a simple majority.
Oregon voters are roughly
evenly split between Democrats,
unaffiliated voters and Repub-
licans — in that order. There is
probably far more that unites Ore-
gonians than divides them. On
some issues at least, majority
opinion is slim or hard to find.
Democrats hold power now.
They may not always. Demo-
crats have used the power of the
walkout before, in 1971, 1995 and
In these unsettled times, Ore-
gonians need legislators and a
governor who find ways to work
together, not write new exclu-
sionary rules.
(for verification only). We will not publish anonymous letters.
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must be no more than 700 words. Writers must provide a recent
headshot and a one-sentence biography. Like letters to the edi-
tor, columns must refrain from complaints against businesses or
personal attacks against private individuals. Submissions must
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• Submission does not guarantee publication, which is at the
discretion of the editor.
or via mail to editor Phil Wright, 911 Jefferson Ave., La Grande,
OR 97850