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Our Opinion: More union strife ahead?

March 27, 2007 7:57 AM

Is Santa Barbara a union town?

More than people think and more than what's good for it.

Workers at three large supermarket chains may go on strike next month, setting a possible repeat of the five-month strike that began in October 2003. That strike was a no-win for everyone. Workers, customers and the owners of the stores ended up being hurt.

In a story on the one-year anniversary of the strike in 2004, an economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. told the News-Press that employees saw their personal finances "pretty well devastated" because of the labor action.

In the latest development, Albertsons workers have voted to allow union leaders to order a strike. The contracts for 65,000 workers at Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons are set to expire April 9. Let's hope cool heads prevail.

Teamsters organizers from Los Angeles want to represent certain News-Press newsroom employees and have brought disruptive tactics to our community. No doubt, the Teamsters next will set their sights on other employers in Santa Barbara.

The union historically is known for its past ties to organized crime.

The Teamsters have a history in Santa Barbara, with employees at a variety of workplaces having tossed out the union. For example, the Santa Barbara firefighters in the late 1970s decertified the Teamsters union. One firefighter told the News-Press at the time that the problem was "not really trusting them or having faith in them for a lot of reasons . . . we don't know what they're doing with our money."

During this time, a 16-month strike by garbage workers ended with similar dissatisfaction.

Two years later, the Teamsters officials working with these units ended up being indicted by a federal grand jury on embezzlement, arson and racketeering charges as part of an organizing attempt in Thousand Oaks.

We have many concerns about the spread of unionization in Santa Barbara, particularly when one considers what happens at many businesses once the organizers move in or when a union is certified. First there's strife. Next prices often go up and quality goes down.

One only needs to look to the most unionized sector in Santa Barbara -- the government -- to see the inefficiencies, bloat and lack of customer care. One public employee union, the Service Employees International Union, spends so much money in local elections that our elected officials cave in to them at every turn.

How bad is it? Employee retirement and health-care benefits, gained through collective bargaining at the county and city governments, are so out of hand that they threaten to take big chunks of money away from basic government services.

Yes, unions are here already. And we all pay a big price.

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