The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

What "neutral" means to the bosses' government

Dec 15, 2003

As the Southern California supermarket strike entered its tenth week, negotiations between the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the three largest national chains, Kroger, Safeway and Albertsons, continued under the supervision of federal mediator, Peter Hurtgen.

A recent Los Angeles Times article called Hurtgen a "consensus-builder," someone who can "win the trust of management and labor with his neutrality."

Neutrality? This is a man who was a long-time partner at the Washington law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius which represents ... management! In fact, the same Los Angeles Times article states that, as a member of the National Labor Relations Board from 1997 to 2002, "Hurtgen was consistently pro-management."

But even if he were "neutral," that would only mean that the supermarkets get half of what they want. And what they want are cuts in health care benefits and Sunday pay, and they want to introduce a two-tier wage scale with lower pay and benefits for new hires.

The grocery chains are on an all-out attack. For striking grocery workers and their families, there is too much at stake to leave things in the hands of anyone but themselves.