California grocery workers vote for strike authorization

On Monday, thousands of grocery workers in central and southern California began voting on whether their union should be authorized to strike against major supermarket chains.

California grocery workers vote for strike authorization

This week, approximately 47,000 employees at hundreds of Ralphs Albertsons, Vons, Vons and Pavilions shops are eligible to vote. The results are expected to be announced on March 27.

Possible strikes would include grocery clerks and meat cutters, pharmacists and pharmacy techs represented by seven locals from the United Food and Commercial Workers.

After the March 6th expiration of the three-year contracts, negotiations with Ralphs, Kroger's owner, and Albertsons (owner of Albertsons and Vons) ended without an agreement.

The union stated the next day that the proposed wage increase by the companies was a 60 cent increase, which it called "shockingly low" in comparison to workers' cost of living. The union also offered other proposals, including a $5-an hour raise.

A statement by United Food and Commercial Workers stated that "both companies have refused to increase safety committees in stores and have yet to negotiate meaningful welfare and health benefits."

According to the union, it stressed the crucial role that grocery workers played in the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic during the last day of negotiations.

According to the union, Erlene Molina, a Ralphs employee and member of the bargaining committee, said that she saw people acting as if the world was ending. However, they couldn't stay home. We were aware that we had an obligation towards our community and so we showed up every single day.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Ralphs stated that the vote causes "unnecessary concern" for their communities and associates. This statement came at a time when they should be working together in good faith negotiations to reach compromises and solutions. Ralphs is still focused on a settlement with the UFCW.

Albertsons Companies stated in a statement, that the goal of the negotiations is to provide employees with a competitive total salary package, which includes wages, health and welfare, as well as pension benefits.

The statement stated that Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions are committed to working together to reach an agreement that is fair for all employees and good for customers. This will allow them to continue to be competitive in the Southern California marketplace.

However, the union has yet to reach agreements with other supermarket chains such as Gelson's and Stater Brothers & Super A.

In 2019, Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons employees voted to authorize strike action, but the contracts were settled without a walkout.

The 2003-04 strike and lockout that saw nearly 70,000 Southern California grocery workers go on strike for over four months left almost 70,000 of them in picket line.


 

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