Grocery Strike: Union Taking ‘Huge Risk,’ Consultant Says

Retail consultant says union has much more to lose than grocery stores

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A veteran retail consultant says the grocery workers' union is taking a huge risk if it goes on strike against three big supermarket chains.

The union members could decide to strike by Monday if union leaders and store owners don't reach an agreement on a suitable contract by Sunday.

Union members sent a 72-hour notice of intent to strike on Thursday. They are not satisfied with the healthcare benefits in the contract, and have been working without a contract since March.

George Whalin says the high unemployment rate, compared to the last supermarket strike in 2003, means the stores will have no problem hiring replacement workers. Whalin also says the supermarkets are owned by large national companies that can absorb the loss of business better than union worker can live without their paychecks.

Whalin is surprised that union management has let its membership get this close to a strike, because, in his view the union has much more to lose this time, compared to the strike.

But Whalin also notes that the supermakets will also lose considerable money in a strike, and could lose customers.

That's because shoppers have more shopping alternatives, if they don't want to cross the picket lines. Costco, Target, WalMart and the new "Fresh and Easy" chain will not be affected if the grocery union strikes.

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