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Southland Grocery Workers Pave Way for Strike

They give notice to end contract extension.

The union representing Southland grocery workers Thursday issued a 72-hour notice canceling the grocery contract extension, paving the way for a strike.

"We returned to the bargaining table ready to compromise and make a deal that keeps our employers profitable but protects the jobs of our members,'' said a statement from the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents workers at Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons.

"Instead, we got more of the same stonewalling from management. They are unwilling to compromise and are more concerned about hoarding their billions in profits than reaching a fair deal for their employees. We don't want to strike, but if they won't negotiate, we have no choice.''

Related: Ralphs Says It Will Close All Stores If Strike Is Called

Albertsons and Vons responded with statements expressing disappointment with the union's action.

 'We are still in active negotiations and have made progress during our talks this past week and a half,'' the Albertsons statement read.

Canceling the contract extension "needlessly alarms our employees and our customers,'' the Vons statement read. "The notice does not mean a strike is imminent or that a strike will necessarily occur at any point. The notice simply allows the union the ability to call a strike if they choose to do so.''

Grocery workers will begin final strike preparations following the 72-
hour notice to cancel the contract, massing at local union headquarters to assemble signs, stockpile food for strikers and their families, and continue picket training, according to the union.

An overwhelming majority of Southern California's 62,000 grocery workers represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers union voted on Aug. 19-20 to authorize a strike. It was the second time the union membership had taken a strike authorization vote, with the most recent action taken in response to the latest health-care proposal offered by the grocery chains.

Some of the stores have been accepting applications for fill-in workers in case the grocery workers do walk off the job.

Unionized grocery workers employed at stores from Santa Barbara County to the Mexican border have been working without a contract since March 6.

Under the most recent industry offer, workers would pay about $36 per month for individual health insurance, or $92 per month for family coverage.

However, the union says the insurance fund would not be financially viable and wants the supermarkets to contribute more to prevent it from running out of money within 16 months.

No tentative agreement on wages has been reached.

A 141-day strike in 2003-04, which cost the stores an estimated $1.5
billion, led some customers to make long-term changes to their shopping habits by going to independent grocers and specialty outlets. Both sides agreed that they were hurt by the last strike.

—City News Service

Mike September 16, 2011 at 09:26 PM
These So Cal grocery workers already have the best health care benefits of any grocery workers in the country, but the union seems to think they need even more. Sounds a lot like the union is trying to justify itself, and their salaries. I wonder how they would feel if Ralph's, Von's and Albertson's got together and broke the union?!
Beth September 17, 2011 at 12:51 AM
These grocery workers have no idea how lucky they are to have not only a job but health benefits as well. I would give anything to pay what they pay for health benefits!! I agree with Mike, they should break the union. Anyone who strikes in this economy is insane!! I will still shop there regardless. I have absolutely no problem crossing the picket lines!! Who's with me?
M September 17, 2011 at 01:27 PM
Does anyone know what their hourly pay is? I recall a few years ago a Vons checker saying she made $17 hour. With deductions et al they can't afford paying into more health insurance coverage. Yes. They are lucky to have jobs but they're just asking for fair wages.
Sharon Thompson September 18, 2011 at 12:04 AM
Can any of these union puppets do basic math? Get out your calculator and see how the slightly increased insurance premiums compare to losing several weeks or months of regular pay. Can you really afford to go out on strike in this present day economy when so many are standing in line for YOUR job? There are so many unemployed who would gladly take your job at a lesser hourly wage just to have the insurance benefits for themselves and family. Today's unions are a ruse for the union bosses to line their pockets and manipulate politics. If the strike happens I will do all of my shopping at Trader Joe's/Sprouts & COSTCO. May never return to a union grocery store since there is no reason other than convenience. It would really be something if like the air traffic controllers who went on strike during the Reagan administration these folks were all fired by Executive Order while on strike and permanently placed. Then what? Do the BASIC MATH to see what the end result will be for you and your families.
Shripathi Kamath September 18, 2011 at 12:37 AM
Sharon, perhaps you can help them understand the trouble they will be in by showing a sample calculation. Besides, is this not a great exercise in free market principles being applied to the benefit of all? you already are willing to give up your convenience in protest, they are willing to lose their jobs, and the stores are also ok with these workers leaving, so it looks like everybody wins That is good

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