Friday, September 16, 2011

Update: grocery strike may hit stores next week

Grocery unions called a 72-hour notice of canceling grocery contracts on Thursday morning, setting the path for a strike that may hit stores early next week.

A grocery strike, which was voted in favor by more than 90 percent of employees last month, comes on the heels of more than 8 months of failed contract negotiations between Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons and its nearly 62,000 employees.

“No one is getting rich working in a grocery store, but what has made the job workable is the health care benefits,” said Connie Leyva, president of Claremont’s local chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). “They want to save money at the expense of their workers. It’s just greedy.”

Existing contracts expired last March, and despite months of negotiations and meetings with a federal mediator, the 2 groups have yet to come to a compromise. A major area of dispute involves proposed spikes in employees’ health care plans.

“[Grocery workers] just want to keep what we have. We aren’t asking for anything better or worse,” Ms. Leyva said. “They want to save money at the expense of their workers who are barely hanging on.”

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. Though employees are hoping for a solution over the weekend, the prospects seem bleak.

“Our members are very reasonable, but nothing seems to be good enough,” Ms. Leyva said. “We are tired of them dragging their feet. They are taking advantage of the economy and of their employees. We need to show them that we have a bottom line.”

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