The delivery of eight dozen Safeway doughnuts early Tuesday lifted the spirits of picketing Steelworkers at Kaiser’s Mead smelter.
The gift was ironic, since Safeway Stores Inc. was the last major employer in Spokane County to experience a labor strike.
But Safeway management quickly scrambled to deny any support for the Steelworkers.
“The employees paid for the doughnuts,” said the Northpointe Plaza Safeway store manager, who did not want his name used. The manager, however, confirmed that he personally delivered the doughnuts to the pickets because “there was no one else available.”
Bakery manager Larry Hone, a union employee, was more magnanimous, saying the store donated the “surplus doughnuts” as a gesture of kindness to Kaiser workers. Some of the workers are Safeway’s best customers, he said.
Retirements on hold
Gerald Sturgis of Coeur d’Alene claims he’s one of 70 Kaiser Aluminum Corp. workers whose retirements have been delayed by the Steelworkers strike.
A veteran of the Trentwood rolling mill, Sturgis said he was eligible for retirement last Thursday. But the company urged him to work through the end of February, saying that a strike would not change his retirement date.
On Monday, when the strike commenced, Sturgis said company officials told him his retirement was officially postponed.
Kaiser officials had no response Tuesday to Sturgis’ story.
“I don’t see how they can just call it (retirement) off,” Sturgis said on Monday. “I could have retired Thursday; another guy I know was scheduled to retire tomorrow.”
Families of striking workers have sometimes joined the picket lines.
Phyllis Marion, whose husband and two sons work for Kaiser, gently rocked her granddaughter’s stroller Tuesday evening outside the Mead plant.
“This is my granddaughter, Desirae Rose,” Marion said. “She came out to root them on.”
Terry Annett, a four-year Kaiser employee, brought his wife, twin 4-year-old daughters and son to the picket line Tuesday evening.
The family planned to stay the night. They parked their camper nearby.
Eight-year-old Joshua Annett stood next to his father, hooting and waving a picket sign as cars passed.
“It’s fun,” the boy said.
His father asked: “Do you know why you’re here?”
At first, Joshua couldn’t remember.
“You guys want more money so we can buy a house or something,” Joshua said finally.