| Boycott Watch is very careful before taking sides in a
boycott. Per our policy, we only take a stance when boycotts which are based on
false information, anti-American or illegal. In this case, there is a boycott
which is flat out stupid that borders on illegality.
Boycott Watch believes in the right to strike. Employees
have the right to stand up to what they perceive as unjust. While not all Rite
Aid Pharmacy locations are unionized, a strike is underway at several stores in
the Cleveland, Ohio area. This strike is unusual because the strikers are
holding up signs with the words "Don't Shop," a call to boycott.
According to the law, unions may not call for boycotts
against businesses to force them to join a union. When unions use boycotts, it
is usually against companies which have broken the unions, or perhaps after a
plant closing to open a non-unionized facility in another country. In this
case, Rite Aid has non-union stores in the same city, and the boycott calls are
to get all customers to shop at other chains, including avoiding the
non-unionized Rite Aid stores, thus it straddles the law pertaining to union
boycotts. For the most part, however, businesses facing union strikes do not
evoke this law in fear of upsetting all union members, their families and
supporters. While it is not in a businesses best interest to alienate their
customer base, federal prosecutors can step in, even after a strike ends.
The disturbing part of this case is the fact that store
employees are telling their own customers to shop elsewhere. That may be a feel
good measure during a strike; however, by driving away customers, the picketers
are also driving away the need for their jobs after the strike. Fewer customers
mean fewer employees will be needed to serve the remaining customers. And,
since Rite Aid has been in financial pain, it is not only the wrong time to
demand more from the retailer, but it also puts the striking stores at the top
of the stores to close list - Unions may win concessions in a contract
negotiations, but if the company can't afford it, the company may close the
stores, eliminating the union jobs.
The strikers are sending three messages to Rite Aid. First,
they are saying they are not partners in prosperity, which the stores need to
thrive, thus hire people. Second, the strikers are declaring themselves
ineligible for promotion since no manager will promote anyone who does not look
out for their employer. Third, and most importantly, any employee who tells
customers to shop elsewhere for products their own store carries is being 100%
disloyal. The strikers are not only saying they cannot be trusted to look out
for the best interests of the company, but are more concerned with improving
the bottom line of the competition. These strikers are disloyal and can never
be trusted to act for the betterment of the company they work for, the same
company which gives them paychecks in a down economy.
This strike is also an exercise in stupidity. According to
one unionized Rite Aid employee who is breaking the strike and wishes to remain
anonymous, "The non-unionized stores have better (employee) benefits, and
the union is not paying me to strike." Rite Aid union members have already
past the point where they cannot possibly make up the lost wages of the strike
via a pay increase. The only people who can possibly benefit from this strike
is the union, the staff of which are being paid from money taken out of the
paychecks of the people they are poorly representing, and without regard of the
lost wages of their members. The wrong people, therefore, are under fire by
these union members.
Freedom of speech has limitations. You cannot yell fire in a
crowded theater, and you cannot tell your own customers to shop elsewhere and
still expect to keep your job. The striking Rite Aid employees and especially
their union leadership need to be fired.