To the editor: This past February, a grocery store employee in Alaska was fired from her job for blowing the whistle on safety and sanitation concerns. According to her lawyer, after raising these concerns, the employer “did everything in their powers to drive her out of her employment, giving her crummy shifts, making her do heavier work and isolating her.”
This example highlights why we need collective bargaining agreements. Unfortunately for this woman, she did not not have a collective bargaining agreement or a union to protect her. I represent over 2,400 grocery store workers in Alaska as president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 1496. A collective bargaining agreement provides my members with fair wages, health care and a pension. But it also ensures proper workplace safety standards and protection from employer retaliation in cases like this.
In this regard, a union is in the public interest. While I represent 2,400 grocery store employees, countless Alaskans shop at the stores my members staff. When our members bring to light safety and health violations in stores, it’s for the protection of themselves and their colleagues, but also for the public who relies on our stores for their basic needs. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the importance of proper safety and sanitation standards at grocery stores to the forefront. I’m proud our union has helped encourage employers to prioritize the safety of their employees and the public.
Every worker should have the opportunity to have a safe workplace and a voice on the job, and every Alaskan should have the assurance that grocery stores are providing a safe and sanitary environment. A union helps ensure these things.
Because of broken labor law, which I’ve dealt with first hand, not every Alaskan has access to a union, oftentimes due to fear of retaliation. Because of this, I’m calling on our senators to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. The PRO Act is a much-needed piece of legislation that will help end employer retaliation by instituting stiff fines for this type of punitive retribution. Let’s all come together to urge our senators to support the PRO Act so that Alaska can be a place for working families to thrive in the generations to come.