From the November-December 2022 issue of News & Letters
The Teamsters Union (IBT) announced on Oct. 21 ratification of the first national master contract for unionized Costco workers, 73% of whom voted in favor. Workers had rejected Costco’s first offer, with 93% voting against.
The Teamster master freight agreement, established in 1964, standardizing wages and pension benefits and working conditions across the local and long-haul trucking industry, was a tool to minimize any race to the bottom among competing truck lines.
WILDCATS AGAINST SELLOUT DEALS
Even under the mobbed-up control of IBT Presidents like Jimmy Hoffa and Frank Fitzsimmons, there were occasions where key Locals in places like Los Angeles and Chicago could go on wildcat strike and block a sweetheart contract, notably in 1970.
At Costco, only about one out of five locations are unionized, a situation that stems from Costco’s merger with a company whose warehouse workers were already union members. When given the choice between Wal-Mart with its public image as the nation’s leading retail union buster, many workers have chosen to BUY UNION at Costco. Yet stores in cities with a tradition of labor militancy as strong as in Chicago remain non-union,
The image of Wal-Mart as the ultimate union buster has obscured for many that Target has long had the same number of union workers as Wal-Mart: zero. That would surprise those who knew that Target’s predecessor, Dayton-Hudson, had union workers in their department stores. But after Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island successfully won a union representation vote, Target workers in Virginia petitioning to form a union exposed the full fury of Target’s anti-union policy.
This first national master contract for Costco, if there is any point to singing “Solidarity Forever” at union gatherings, needs to form the basis for reaching out and organizing the majority of Costco warehouses that remain non-union. Why not test just how neutral Costco is about workers seeking union representation?
FEAR OF WORKERS’ CONTROL
We have watched this year as the owners of Amazon and Target and Wal-Mart would rather pay any part of their billions to obstruct the organizing efforts of workers at their companies than to offer workers increased wages and overdue benefits. What strikes even more fear into them is conceding to workers a voice on the shop floor, let alone the specter of workers’ control.
A fully-organized army of Costco workers would undercut corporate union-busting campaigns, and help to overcome the anti-worker laws and NLRB, whether appointed by Trump or by Biden.
—Veteran Chicago Teamster