Starting Tuesday, March 8, shoppers who follow the Powell's link on the ILWU Local 5 website will see 7.5 percent of the proceeds from their total purchase going to a fund for laid-off workers.
Ryan Takas, a union rep, said the fund is designated for workers struggling to afford the basics, such as groceries, rent and utilities—it's not intended as a replacement for lost wages. Takas said laid-off workers must submit requests to the union's executive board, which will determine eligibility. So far, four laid-off employees have submitted requests. Once proceeds from the so-called "shop-in" begin to accumulate, Takas said the union plans to write out direct checks to the employees' utility companies or landlords, for example, or to buy grocery store gift cards.
"This is not a money grab at all," Takas said. "People have been really meager in their requests, which shows that they have their finances in order and can survive the storm."
Still, Takas said, the union hopes to generate at least $1000 in the first week of the shop-in, which will continue indefinitely.
"It's something that's not just about grievances," he said. "It helps workers, and it helps Powell's as well. If we went outside and picketed in front of Powell's, it's probably not going to help anybody at this point."