California grocery workers vote to approve strike

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

LOS ANGELES – Thousands of grocery workers in southern and central California began voting Monday on whether their union would be allowed to call a strike against several major supermarket chains.

About 47,000 employees at hundreds of Ralph, Albertson, Vaughan and Pavilion stores are eligible to vote this week. The results are expected to be released on March 27.

The possible strike will involve grocery clerks, meat cutters, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians representing seven local people from the United Food and Commercial Workers.

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. “

The Los Angeles Times reported that Ralph said in a statement that the vote “creates unnecessary concern for our partners and the community, at a time when we must come together in good faith to find a solution and compromise. At Ralphs, we have a Let’s focus on the agreement. “

“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, Stator Brothers and Super A.

In 2019, employees of Ralphs, Vons, Pavilions and Albertsons voted in favor of a strike, but deals ended 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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