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Unions, Democratic Party Clash in Prince George's

Anne Bartlett

A deep dispute has erupted between union leaders in the Washington region and the leadership of the Prince George's County Democratic Party, a fight that highlights broader conflicts over both the pace of development in the county and labor influence in the party.

The fight began when a union member objected to a new development that will include a nonunion Wegmans grocery store, long-awaited by residents who believe Prince George's has been neglected by high-end retailers. The Democratic Party's vice chairman responded by rallying supporters of the development through e-mails, including one in which he wrote he was "troubled it appears that the unions are mounting a campaign to destroy our hopes of moving to the next level in retail."

Union officials say they believe his e-mails amount to a broadside against labor by leaders of a party that is typically its closest ally, in language they say suggests the unions might be racially biased against majority-black Prince George's.

For the full story, click here.

By Anne Bartlett  |  November 1, 2007; 10:21 AM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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All this union chest pounding and posturing is obviously for the benefit of their rank & file. Union leadership in search of substance to justify their roles.

To further the confrontation in the media is simply a way for the union's leadership to appear relevant.

Their track record on halting vendors like Wal-Mart and Wegman's seems to be littered with failure. It certainly plain for us to see, as well as to the brothers & sisters of the unions involved.

While I believe in the labor movement, this is a no-win tactic for the unions. To stifle development in the county - instead of positioning itself as a broker of development in the county - is a public relations catastrophe. What's the upside to this episode and the resulting drama for the unions? Further marginalization and public disapproval.

The union should think before it acts. Bringing this to the media proves that the leadership of Maryland locals are incapable of creative, cognitive thought.

Posted by: PG'er | November 1, 2007 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Simple solution - unionize Wegmans. Until that moment, not a dollar of mine will flow to them. Giant and Safeway have the edge here.

Posted by: Donny | November 2, 2007 7:51 AM | Report abuse

It's awfully difficult to unionize a place that doesn't exist. That's the union's catch-22.

I travel to Hunt Valley to shop at Wegman's and will continue to do so.

Posted by: PG'er | November 2, 2007 9:31 AM | Report abuse

If Wegmens doesn't exist, how can you shop there at Hunt Valley? Union protection for employees (I assume they are hard-working) should be a right at all Wegmens. I realize many will agree to disagree...I just don't see what Wegmens has to be afraid of. Giant and Safeway have flourished with long-standing Union representation.

Posted by: Donny | November 2, 2007 10:59 AM | Report abuse

I don't want to be a shill for Wegmans, but it can happen that employers treat their employees with dignity and provide proper compensation without a union contract.

What exactly can the UCFW provide a Wegman's employee that they don't already have? My point is that the labor movement should be working to protect the put-upon worker, not trying to monopolize the local labor pool.

Wegman's is not afraid - it's the UCFW that is proving to be the scaredy-cat.

Posted by: PG'er | November 2, 2007 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Bad news, Donny, you can't force either the employers nor the employees at Wegman's to unionize, no matter how hard you attempt to control the lives of others.

Hey, why don't YOU start your OWN STORE and run it the way you want it run instead of trying to use government to enforce your morality?

Posted by: Rufus | November 2, 2007 12:13 PM | Report abuse

No one wants to force a union on the employees. The employees usually have to force the union on the employer. Pretty basic. Look into it.


Posted by: Donny | November 2, 2007 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Oh Pger, no harm done. I agree that it is possible for an employer to be generous to employees....usually, though, in these times of outsourcing, the race to lower wages (lets not talk immigration etc here)...I see unions to be a reliable tool for working folks. Are there some good companies that are non-union and are very generous (i.e. wages, benefits)? I am genuinely interested. Especially in large and benevolent corporations. TGIF

Posted by: Donny | November 2, 2007 12:49 PM | Report abuse

The big issue for me is P.G (pretty good county) is why the legislators there are trying to ram a regressive 20% sales tax hike down the throats of all their constituents who don't want to pay it every day.

Posted by: Robin Ficker of Robin Realty | November 2, 2007 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Ficker, good question, part of the answer is the construction costs for the $2,400,000,000 ICC toll road. PG Council members have come out squarely against the toll road and rightly so. Unfortunately, they are being ignored and the ICC costs are not even being considered during the special session.

Posted by: Donny | November 2, 2007 2:09 PM | Report abuse

The unions involved need to be smarter in the battles they choose to fight. People in Prince George's County want high-end businesses, including Wegmans. Any litmus test rule that a retailer/business has to be unionized is unacceptable. Instead they should focus criticizing businesses that treat their workers poorly, unionized or not.

Posted by: No Union Litmus Test | November 8, 2007 1:00 PM | Report abuse

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