Members of a grocery workers union with more than 60,000 members in Southern California were voting today on whether to authorize a strike.
Employees of Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons, who have been without a contract for about six months, are voting on whether to accept a health care package that would require them to pay about $36 per month of individual health insurance or $92 per month for family coverage.
Workers are also voting on giving United Food and Commercial Workers the go-ahead to call a strike. Results of the voting could be available as early as Sunday.
Grocery workers voted in April to authorize a strike but will cast ballots again in response the latest management offer.
Those on both sides hope to avoid a walkout.
"Nobody wants to go on strike,'' union spokesman Mike Shimpock told
City News Service. "It'll hurt the market, it'll hurt us ... but we have to draw a line in the sand here and say we need a fair deal."
Shimpock said if the employers don't agree to put more money into a healh care trust fund, it would go bankrupt within about a year.
"We want to avoid a strike," Ralphs spokeswoman Kendra Doyel said Friday. "The best thing for everyone is to stay at the table and continue negotiating. Our workers want to keep working. Our stores are open and ready for customers, but should something change, we have a plan in place to make sure we can take care of everyone going forward. But we certainly hope that doesn't happen and that we don't have to put things into place.''
The grocery workers' previous contract expired March 6, but they have continued to work under the terms of the previous pact.
The most recent contract was ratified in 2007 after about seven months of negotiations. In 2003-04, a grocery workers strike and lockout dragged on for 141 days, wiping out the savings of some workers and costing supermarkets an estimated $1.5 billion.
—City News Service