California grocery workers vote to approve strike

Thousands of grocery workers in central and southern California have voted to allow their unions to strike against several large supermarket chains.

LOS ANGELES – Thousands of grocery workers in central and southern California have voted to allow their unions to strike against a number of major supermarket chains as negotiations for a deal resume this week.

Nearly 47,000 workers in hundreds of Ralph, Albertson, Vaughan and Pavilions have voted since last week, and the results were announced Sunday.

The possible walkout will involve grocers, meat cutters, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians representing seven locals from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

No strike was set immediately. The union said talks would resume on Wednesday and if bargaining broke out again, it would decide on the next steps.

Negotiations with Albertson, owner of the Ralphs and Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions stores owned by Kroger, ended without a contract before the expiration of the last three-year contract on March 6.

The union said the next day that companies ‘wage proposals amounted to a 60-percent increase that was “shockingly low” and far below workers’ living standards. Employees were asking for a $ 5-hour increase, among other offers.

The union said on the last day of the talks it stressed the important role of grocery workers during the coronavirus epidemic.

The union said Ralph’s employee, Erlene Molina, a member of the bargaining committee, told company negotiators: We knew we had an obligation to our community, so we showed up every day. “

Grocery chains did not immediately comment on the approval of Sunday’s strike.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Ralph said in a statement last Monday that the vote “creates unnecessary concern for our partners and the community, at a time when we should be engaged in bargaining in good faith to find a solution and compromise.” Let’s focus on settling a deal. “

“We are committed to working collaboratively to ensure we reach an agreement that is fair to our employees, good for our customers, and allows Albertson, Vance and Pavilion to remain competitive in the Southern California market,” the statement said.

The union has not yet reached agreements with other supermarket chains, including Gelsons, Stetter Bros. Markets and Super A.

In 2019, employees of the Ralphs, Vons, Pavilions and Albertsons voted in favor of a strike, but deals eventually reached without a walkout.

A 2003-04 strike and lockout put about 70,000 Southern California grocers on the picket line for more than four months.

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