[Metroactive News&Issues]

[ Santa Cruz | Metroactive Home | Archives ]

©Bob Fitch Photo

Dancing in the Aisles: Paul Johnston (left), secretary-treasurer of the Monterey Bay Labor Council, organized a conga line last month during a protest at the Mission Street Safeway.


Unsafe Way

The Mission Street Safeway pretty much defines the brand of weirdness that's particular to the Cruz's West Side. Pull in there around 2 in the morning, and you'll find a straggle of wandering Slugs or a salt-snaggled surf Nazi on a quest for beer and cookies or some such, while a lone clerk pushes carts packed to the gills in an apparent attempt to single-handedly rearrange the store before dawn.

Still, no one recalls ever having seen 50 picketers form a conga line of empty shopping carts through this store, which is reportedly what went down there last month in support of the 70,000 locked-out grocery workers in SoCal, who are striking over Safeway's plans to slash health care and bring in new hires at much lower pay.

Last weekend, the West Side picketers were doing more of a hot stamp than a conga--and this time outside the store--at the news that Safeway CEO Steve Burd (who has raised more than $200,000 for Bush's 2004 election campaign), has been appointed by Bush to a private sector subcommittee of the Homeland Security Advisory Council.

As Paul Johnston of the Monterey Bay Labor Council put it, "Steve Burd is a domestic terrorist undermining health care and job security."

Readers may recall that state Attorney General Bill Lockyer recently filed an lawsuit against the grocery chains embroiled in this 4-month-old strike, after the Safeway-owned Vons and Pavilions and Kroger-owned Albertsons, Ralphs and Food 4 Less entered a mutual aid agreement--an arrangement that Lockyer alleges "violates antitrust law and harms consumers."

Says Johnson, "Unions are often accused of unfairly limiting free trade, but here we have a bald-faced conspiracy to help break the union."

Grocery workers aren't yet on strike in the Cruz, but organizers predict they will be by fall--if presented with similar cuts when their contracts expire a few days short of Sept. 11's anniversary.

So far Safeway has stated that while health care would be funded at a lower level in its SoCal proposal, this compensation would be within the market range for the SoCal retail sector--an argument that evidently hasn't impressed picket organizer Malcolm Terence of the American Federation of Teachers.

Manning the line outside Safeway last Saturday morning, as he had done every Saturday since the strike began four months ago, Terence said, "We want to send a message to the wallets of the people who think that they can make a Third World workplace here in America."

As for the world of work in the Cruz in particular, Steven Roescher of the Machinists Union said, "Living in this community isn't possible without decent wages and health care," while UCSC TA Chris Dixon, a UAW 2865 member, noted that plans were afoot, as of presstime, to shut down the San Francisco Stock Exchange this Wednesday, Feb. 11, followed by an attempt to close the West Side store that night. Call 633.1869, ext. 12 or visit www.mbclc.org for details.

Smoke and Mirrors

"Woo, woo! Chuggah, chuggah, chuggah!"

No, that's not the sound of the Coastal Trolley wending its way from Aptos to Capitola, Instead, it's the noise of its supporters angrily venting their frustration after last week's Regional Transportation Commission meeting, in face of continued opposition from RTC chair Jan Beautz--opposition they fear will jeopardize $11 million the state has earmarked to purchase the rail corridor from Union Pacific.

A few months ago (Nüz, Nov. 19) Beautz questioned whether the county would have to return $11 million in state funding if said project failed financially--a concern that led Roaring Camp's Cliff Walters and Sierra Railroad's Mike Hart to show up at last week's RTC meeting to state themselves willing to "guarantee to provide recreational rail on the branch line without fare-box subsidies"--a guarantee they claim eliminates any "significant risk" by the county.

But Beautz remained firm-booted, voicing concerns not only about the railroad operators' business plan but also about the project's compatibility with a proposed pedestrian/bike path, not to mention the impact of a proposed diesel train on homes that flank the tracks.

"I think a coastal trail would be a good idea, but I'm not in favor of a recreational rail project," Beautz told Nüz. "'No' doesn't mean abandoning the rail corridor but just abandoning getting it this way."

Noting that the RTC has until 2010 to come up with a project, Beautz said, "There may be a few businesses that want it, but in general we don't hear, 'Gee! We really want a train!' but, 'Gee! We really want the right of way.'"

As it happens, endorsers include the Sierra Club and People Power, as well as the Seaside Company and Seascape Resort.

Sierra Club transportation chair James Danaher said, "The Sierra Club absolutely endorses the purchase of the rail corridor, and the coastal trolley is our best chance. A vote against the coastal trolley is a vote against the rail trail."

Acknowledging that "some people are afraid the trolley is the Trojan horse that will let major commuter rail service into the county" and admitting that "there's no doubt the Seaside Company would love the trolley to come to downtown Santa Cruz," Danaher said, "a small number of residents are holding the rest of us hostage in the face of the most important land purchase the county faces."

But RTE commissioner Ellen Pirie, who is up for re-election as county supe, backed Beautz's wish to stop the project in its tracks, saying: "I understand that the bottom line here is that the county has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to buy the corridor from Union Pacific, with the state providing $11 million for the purchase. But some people want it so badly, they don't want to stop and look at this offer in a critical way, when they really need to think about it now, otherwise 10 years down the road, they will be cursing."

Those interested in the trolley and the rail trail should mark the evening of Thursday, March 4, on their calendars, For meeting location details, call 454. 2200.

IQ Test

Seems to Nüz that Bush's newly announced commission to investigate failures in U.S. intelligence isn't exactly the A-List of people with experience and expertise on these matters that you'd expect, given the magnitude of the failure. And we can't help wondering if said commission will be able to subpoena witnesses and documents in the kind of strong and independent way that will make this commission credible. And then there's the post-presidential election report date. All of which makes Nüz wonder how stupid Bush think Americans really are.

Nüz just loves juicy tips: Drop a line to 115 Cooper St, Santa Cruz, 95060, email us at , or call our hotline at 457.9000, ext 214.

[ Santa Cruz | Metroactive Central | Archives ]

From the February 11-18, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

For more information about Santa Cruz, visit santacruz.com.

Foreclosures - Real Estate Investing
San Jose.com Real Estate