Grocery workers employed at Southern California Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons have been threatening a labor strike. Current contract negotiations have been going on since last March when the previous contract expired.
Workers belonging to seven union locals (the largest being United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770) will vote next week on whether to go on strike in the labor dispute. Workers protested on Wednesday in parking lots of three different Ralphs stores across Los Angeles. The protests were also attended by politicians, community leaders and customers who support the workers.
The supermarkets are telling workers and the media that they would rather deal with the contract negotiations internally, and they have also been telling the media that they have been getting calls from unemployed people saying they would like to apply for a job at the store if the workers go on strike.
The workers say they do not want to strike, but are prepared to do so if it is deemed necessary to uphold their rights. Many customers may choose not to cross picket lines as was the case during the previous grocery workers strike that lasted 4 1/2 months and cost the stores $1 billion in revenue that went instead to competitors.
So far the sides have agreed upon pensions. The two sides have not yet agreed upon wage and workplace rules. The healthcare benefits are reportedly the biggest point of contention between the supermarkets and the workers. The workers say the supermarkets want to cut their health benefits by 50 percent or more.
NBC LA, “Grocery Workers Rally at SoCal Stores,” Cary Berglund and Olga Spilewsky, Aug. 10, 2011
Reuters, “S. California grocery workers press for contract,” Lisa Baertlein, Aug. 9, 2011