-By Warner Todd Huston
The only downtown-based grocery store in Tacoma, Washington opened nearly 12 months ago. Downtown residents loved the idea of having a new, up-scale grocery store near them at long last, but since the day the store opened in Sept. of 2011, union picketers have been blocking entrances and harassing customers. Now, even once staunch union supporters are sick and tired of the union’s constant interference.
The News Tribune recently reported on this absurd situation in downtown Tacoma and the take away from the story is that even people that would otherwise support unions just don’t know what this union’s problem is! Its goals are not clear at all and the nearly year-long picketing is unfathomable to residents.
Not only are people confused on what the heck the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 367 is doing, many fear that this nonsense will chase off any other business that might want to open a shop downtown.
In multiple interviews with The News Tribune this spring and summer, dozens of people from shoppers to businesspeople to elected officials have said they’re not sure how to resolve the stalemate or how it even began. They’ve expressed everything from puzzlement to anger over how the city can’t seem to fulfill one of its longtime wishes without controversy. They’re concerned about the message sent to other businesses considering a move to downtown Tacoma. And some are worried that the store won’t survive.
For the locals that are so happy to have a grocer near their downtown homes, this store was a long time in coming in the first place. Developers tried to interest several big chain grocery stores in a downtown location, but none of them were interested because they determined that the customer base would not be large enough to justify their expansion into the area. And the last local grocer closed in 1972, so there has been no grocery within walking distance of these downtown condos for quite some time and has never been one since the area was revitalized in the early 1990s.
Now that residents finally got their grocery the union has been a thorn in their side since day one.
So, the new owner has a five-year lease. How much you want to bet that once that lease is up they decide to bag the whole enterprise? Then the residents will be without a grocery store near them once again.
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