Friday, September 25, 2009

Unions Cry Stale

Two of the city's most influential unions have weighed in against the city's supermarket initiative. The RWDSU issued the following statement: "There is no question that many neighborhoods in the city lack access to supermarkets and healthy food choices. In fact, under Mayor Bloomberg’s watch the city has lost 300 supermarkets. But the Mayor’s FRESH program only superficially addresses the problem and actually does more harm than good. The FRESH program does nothing to ensure that the jobs that are created through city support are good jobs. Without such a guarantee the FRESH program may well subsidize the creation of low-wage, part-time, no-benefit jobs that will only feed into a cycle of poverty."

And the UFCW's Local 1500 agrees, and blasts the plan's shortsightedness in today's Crain's Insider. The local is particularly peeved that the plan could finance Whole Foods in the city: "Whole Foods’ interest in the city’s FRESH program—which would use tax and zoning incentives to lure supermarkets to underserved neighborhoods—disgusts a supermarket union official. “If they do not believe taxpayer money should be used to fix the nation’s health care crisis, then how the hell do they think it’s OK to take taxpayer money to open new stores?”

Both unions are perturbed that there is no living wage component in the current initiative. As RWDSU's president Stuart Appelbaum remarks: "The FRESH program simply gives developers incentives without asking anything in return. Unfortunately this is the same approach that the Bloomberg Administration has taken towards development across the city. Time and again Mayor Bloomberg has lavished subsidies, tax breaks and other incentives on developers without ever showing the least concern about whether the projects were actually good for residents. Under Mayor Bloomberg, developers with a cozy relationship with his administration have done well while city residents have benefited little."

Local 1500 agrees in part-but is particularly aggrieved because it had taken a lead role in advocating an aggressive approach to encourage new supermarket growth. In its press release, it goes on to say: "The Union announced it will initiate an aggressive campaign to educate and inform City Council members about “both the major flaws in the FRESH initiative and the misleading objectives that were presented to our Union over the past several months by City officials,” according to Purcell. “We negotiated in good faith for months so a fair and reasonable initiative could move forward that would bring New York City communities equal access to fresh, healthy and affordable food and what they got today was an expensive rotten apple.”

So, it appears to us that those labor groups that should be in the forefront of encouraging more supermarkets are backing away from the current plan-underscoring our own critique of the city's approach. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out next month at the city council.