Letters for the Week of July 21 

Readers sound off on Oakland police, the Berkeley Bowl, Mandela Foods Co-op, and that cover.

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My first impressions from the appearance of the restaurant, menu, and owner are great so I'm hoping to have some meals there soon! Perhaps you could clarify hours/pancake issues.

Ellen R., Oakland

"Years in the Making, Mandela Foods Cooperative Still a Secret," News, 6/16

Tax Money for Food Justice

As a co-founder of a nonprofit working on food justice issues in the East Bay, I appreciate your coverage of Mandela Foods Coop on June 16th ("Years in the Making, Mandela Foods Cooperative Still a Secret"). However, the feature provides a shallow investigation into the actual work of Mandela Marketplace, which successfully enables economic empowerment and affordable healthy food options in the West Oakland community. The article also fails to understand the relationship between the worker-owned and operated store, Mandela Foods Coop, and the non-profit that supports it, Mandela Marketplace, which has no ownership over the store. This grocery store is owned and operated by multi-generational people of color who are from West Oakland, not "Harvey and Co." as Taylor purports. Their produce is mostly sourced from small farmers of color within 100 miles. Plus, the youth program is also making this produce available through partnerships with two corner stores, Bottles Liquor and Millennium Market, in addition to the cooperative grocery store in West Oakland. With all the public development money that goes to provide incentives for corporate chain stores, it's about time some of our tax money supported true economic and food justice in Oakland. Everyone should support this store!

Haleh Zandi, Oakland

"Workers at Berkeley Bowl Boot Their Union," News, 6/30

A Situation Worth Monitoring

I recently left Berkeley Bowl after working there for roughly a year. I can honestly say that I got along with and was treated well by management. But, at the same time, I witnessed some inconsistent treatment. Policies, procedures, and even our medical plan changed without much notice, arguably in violation of our existing contract. UFCW Local 5 clearly had its faults — namely, communicating with employees only when contract negotiations were imminent. I'm not surprised that saving $50 a month was enough for some employees to support decertification. Many weren't sure what they'd be missing. But I question how employees are going to get a better package from Berkeley Bowl without union representation, especially considering the company's history. For my friends and former co-workers, I hope this "Berkeley Bowl plan" far exceeds the pre-2003 working conditions. I'd ask the community and whatever "watchdog" organization develops to make sure pro-union employees to not receive the retaliation many feared."

Steve Westhoff, Walnut Creek

Workers Need Their Own Unions

US workers are not stupid; they know that the unions in the United States are no longer run by workers. A whole bunch of petty bourgeois intellectuals with university titles, such us Business Rep, Labor Organizers and even lawyers have taken control of the union halls and have used the workers' dues to run their campaigns to climb up to the "leadership" positions.

United Food and Commercial Workers has a particularly nefarious record in the last 25 years. In 1986, when the Local P-9 in Austin, Minnesota went on strike against the Hormel meatpacking house, the "International" decertified the local and formed another local with the scabs, under the orders of the late President William Wynn. P-9 workers had fought Hormel for a year with the support of workers around the country. Since, the meatpacking houses in the Midwest have either deunionized or have imposed concessionary contracts, employing mostly illegal scabs at wages that are a third of those of 1986.

In the 21st Century, the UFCW carried out another disastrous "negotiation" with Safeway and other supermarkets in California. It refused to go on strike during the end-of-the-year holidays, when the strike could've been more effective, postponing it for mid-January after another of their "shrewd" "negotiations" failed. Result: another concessionary contract with several tiers that left newly hired workers with a third of prevalent wages and no benefits.

The UFCW, together with the SEIU, are the most pro-illegal scabs unions and we, the workers, know that that means the erosion of wages, working conditions and safety rules. The workers must form their own unions and political organizations in order to be able to fight capitalism effectively.

Leo T. West, San Leandro

"Oakland Police Search Without Warrants," News, 6/30

It's a Trend

Up in Humboldt County a similar building-code scheme was used to get bench warrants, without evidence, permitting entry to one property suspected of "code violations," with a half-dozen armed deputies fanning out from there. The fun part was, case law says cops can operate freely in securing "open fields" near any old non-crime scene — so the cops went warrant-free as far as two miles away into peoples' homes and yards looking for ... whatever, under cover of the far-off routine, evidence-free warrant. A big stink two years ago toned down this particular approach up there, but the lower evidentiary standard for building code warrants means that even "warranted" raids can be completely unwarranted.

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