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Good report from CBS MarketWatch about how, as the Northern California United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) locals prepare for a possible strike against Safeway, Albertsons and Kroger, consideration is being given the possibility that unions need to return to a more nationalized approach.

The argument is that as retailers have become more national and centralized in their approach, unions have been acting as individual local entities, which puts them at a significant financial and organizational disadvantage in negotiations.

Held up as a model for how the UFCW should restructure itself is the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which, according to CBS MarketWatch, “has boosted membership and won contract victories by restructuring itself along industry lines.”
KC's View:
Such a shift by unions to a more nationalized approach could spell long-term problems for the food industry, but we also suspect it could cause some problems for organized labor. After all, centralization also can lead to greater bureaucracy, and the likelihood is that national leadership could be out of touch with local membership.

This could create opportunities for retailers to forge new alliances and agreements with their employees – but only if both sides are willing and able to confront the real issues that face them (Wal-Mart!) and not re-fight old battles.