About 25 people marched in front of the Vons grocery store on the corner of Mills Avenue and Baseline Road Thursday evening, rallying support for employees in lieu of a potential grocery strike in the coming weeks.
Coordinated by MoveOn.org and Claremont’s local chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), union supporters gathered peacefully outside the grocery store, calling for a compromise on unsettled contracts involving Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons employees.
“Rallying is often associated with negativity, and hate, but we are here to bring positive energy and support for people that are just trying to achieve their American dream,” said Nick Parra, a coordinator with MoveOn.org.
Thursday’s rally came in response to months of negotiations between the union and nearly 62,000 Southern California grocery store employees. After existing contracts expired last March, the 2 groups have struggled to come to a compromise. A major area of dispute involves proposed spikes in employees’ health care plans.
“These corporations already make big buck. They need to help their employees make money too. They can’t live and support a family on those wages,” said Julia King, a former union employee and member of MoveOn.org. “There are too many corporations sucking the life out if our democracy.”
Supporters lined the sidewalk outside of Vons, and marched silently across the grocery store aisles, bearing signs scribbled with “Stop the war on workers” and “union workers rock.” Carlos Soto, came out from Glendora to hold up a sign and stand behind his fellow grocery store workers.
“I know the hardships [of being on strike],” Mr. Soto said, a former grocery store employee himself for more than 27 years. “These people work hard to support their families. It’s important to try and save these jobs.”
Grocery store workers are expected to vote over the weekend on whether or not to go ahead with a strike. The last time the 2 groups were unable to reach an agreement, in 2003-2004, a 141-day strike ensued at grocery chains throughout Southern California. Regardless of the outcome, supporters plan to stand behind their local grocery store clerks.
“It’s a very stressful time for our grocery store workers,” said Connie Leyva, president of UFCW Local 1478. “Our community is coming together to stand behind them.”
photo courtesy of Steven Felschundneff, photo editor/staff photographer