Friday, January 21, 2022 -
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Am I a scab?

Barring a return to the negotiation table, by the time you read this column, King Soopers workers will be on strike. My feelings on unions are mixed. Fundamentally, I support the right for labor to organize and negotiate as a block. Through studying social and economic history, I learned that without labor protections, all kinds of inhumane practices can and do occur. Much of the worst of these, like child labor, are in the past in the US.

But major violations continue elsewhere. The mobile phone you may be reading this column on? It was produced with coltan, a mineral at the heart of armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Those miners have little to no voice, and the product they mine has become a necessity. So the deadly labor violations continue, despite official regulations and promises by Western tech companies.

On the other side, there are the cases where unions seem to hurt more than help. During this pandemic, we’ve seen the power of teachers’ unions in cities like San Francisco, Chicago and New York wielded to protect teachers but harm students. In those cities, teachers advocated for themselves as some kind of protected class that deserved not to be exposed to COVID. Of course, that’s a union’s job. But students’ education — both socially and academically — suffered dramatically.

Then there’s King Soopers, where the workers were and are essential, and showed up, day in, day out, during this pandemic. I’m incredibly grateful for their commitment, and being a long-time King Soopers shopper, I’ve developed a rapport with some employees at my regular branches.

I’m extremely empathetic. But I will be crossing the picket line. Not only because I think the union should have allowed its members to vote on the King Soopers offer prior to announcing a strike, but also because, quite frankly, there’s only so many more things I can add to my list.

We’ve all been under enormous pressure during this pandemic. Whether it’s homeschooling our kids, searching for essential goods during a supply shortage, trying to keep businesses afloat despite government restrictions and labor shortages. Then there’s the mental stress of looking out after own health or for those family members who are vulnerable. The smaller stuff, like plans and trips being cancelled. Now I need to also shop somewhere else? Rearrange my routine? Call me selfish, but I don’t have the wherewithal. I hope the King Soopers workers will understand.

Shana Goldberg may be reached at shana@ijn.com.

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IJN Assistant Publisher | shana@ijn.com


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