By PAUL PARMLEY
YAKIMA (Oct. 19, 2017) — Miracle on 34th Street? Hardly.
You may recall the movie, Kris Kringle working at Macy’s redirects shoppers to Gimbel’s Department Store when Macy’s didn’t carry an item. Gimbel’s Department store is a thing of the past but Louis S. Gimbel III, heir to the Gimbel wealth, is still around as the CEO and president of Hopsteiner and S.S. Steiner, companies that process hops for beer. But this time, there is no Christmas spirit to be found.
Teamsters Local 760 in Yakima represents the hard-working employees at S.S. Steiner, the roughly two dozen folks who process the hops and otherwise make the company profitable. These members are currently on strike against S.S. Steiner.
Local 760 has represented hops processors in the Yakima Valley for well over 30 years. They have negotiated fair contracts for employees in hops processing and are proud to work with companies that promote “fair trade” concepts, such as John I. Haas, another major hop producer in the Yakima Valley.
At issue with S.S. Steiner is part of what is at issue nationally: concerted efforts to defund and decimate organized labor. This is clearly indicated by the nature of this strike. Contract negotiations did not yield an economic dispute. It cuts deeper than that, as Louis S. Gimbel III seeks to gut core union principles of dues check-off and a disciplinary system that have been in place for years.
In most union workplace disputes involving discipline, a grievance can reach the point where an arbitrator is brought in to resolve the matter. Right now, the authority granted an arbitrator means that the arbitrator could consider mitigating factors and could ultimately decide the appropriateness of discipline in full view of all the facts.
Louis S. Gimbel III isn’t satisfied with that. He wants to hamstring an arbitrator’s decision to that of a “yes” or “no” response, to whether an infraction was committed or not. And if “yes,” the arbitrator’s role would be over, with no authority to decide on how appropriate the discipline might be.
This Gimbel concept of justice is not just anti-union, it’s anti-American. A core tenet of jurisprudence in America clearly provides for granting authority to judicial professionals in determining not just the “what” of the matter, but the “why’s” and “how’s” as well.
The other Gimbel “gift” would be to eliminate the long-standing practice of dues checkoff authorization, wherein the employee authorizes the employer to deduct dues payments from payroll and remit to the local union, in almost all cases electronically. If you’ve looked at your pay stub lately, chances are you may see deductions for a variety of things, that like dues checkoff, get set up once with little to no administration required after that initial setup.
Removing dues check-off is clearly intended to be a stick in the eye of organized labor and Teamsters Local 760. It mirrors part of the strategic plan of other insidious groups like the Freedom Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It is yet just one more attack on labor, orchestrated to usher in a national Right to Work (for less!) agenda.
Local 760’s members, your Brothers, have shown great strength and resolve during this fight. They understand what is at stake and so should you, as this isn’t about employee demands that can’t get met, it’s about a growing movement in this country that seeks to destroy the cornerstones of unionism. This is where the word “solidarity” comes in. This is Labor’s word, we proudly own it, it is a gift bought and paid for with the blood, sweat and tears of the Brothers and Sisters that went before us.
There are ways to help. Striking workers are facing hardships as they battle S.S. Steiner and any help you can provide is greatly appreciated and needed at this time. Please contribute to the GoFundMe account set up to assist striking workers’ families. You can also learn more about this strike at the Teamsters Local 760 website.
We need your support. Come walk the picket line at 1 W. Washington Ave. in Yakima. Come stand with us, because in the words of Mother Jones, “My friends, it is solidarity of labor we want. We do not want to find fault with each other, but to solidify our forces and say to each other: We must be together; our masters are joined together and we must do the same thing.”
Paul Parmley is a Business Agent for Teamsters Local 760 in Yakima. He is also President of the North Central Washington Central Labor Council.