Ralphs announced it will shut down all San Diego stores if strike occurs
Sept. 15, 2011 (San Diego) – After months of stalled contract negotiations over medical benefits, grocery workers issued a 72-hour notice canceling the grocery contract extension and paving the way for a strike. A strike against Vons, Albertson's and Ralphs supermarkets could begin as soon as Sunday evening.
“We returned to the bargaining table ready to compromise and make a deal that keeps our employers profitable but protects the jobs of our members,” leaders with the United Food & Commercial Workers said, according to a statement on the union’s website. “Instead, we got more of the same stonewalling from management. They are unwilling to compromise and are more concerned about hoarding their billions in profits than reaching a fair deal for their employees. We don’t want to strike, but if they won’t negotiate, we have no choice.”
The negotiations, now in their eighth month, have dragged on as management refuses to pay their fair share of health care contributions, the union website contends, adding, “Current health care proposals would bankrupt health plans and eliminate entirely health care access for 62,000 grocery workers across Southern California.”
The supermarkets want workers to pay contributions towards their medical insurance premiums, a cost that could amount to hundreds of dollars a month for some workers with families.
“I work hard for my company,” said Kelly Pierce. “They are making money hand over fist. We just want them to share a little of those billions with us so we can pay our rent and take our kids to the doctor. It isn’t asking so much, there is enough for everyone. Why are they being so greedy?”
If there is a strike, Ralphs will initially close all of our stores,” said Kendra Doyel, spokeswoman for the chain, the Union-Tribune reports. “During a strike, it is difficult to create a good shopping experience for our customers and a good working environment for our employees.” In-store pharmacies would remain open, she said. Temporary workers would be hired to pack up and store food.
Albertsons and Vons responded with statements expressing disappointment with the union's decision, 10 News reports.
"We are still in active negotiations and have made progress during our talks this past week and a half," the Albertsons statement reads.
Canceling the contract extension "needlessly alarms our employees and our customers," the Vons statement contends.
Grocery workers will begin final strike preparations following the 72-hour notice to cancel the contract, massing at local union headquarters to assemble signs, stockpile food for strikers and their families, and continue picket trainings.
“We’re ready to fight to preserve good jobs,” union leaders said. “We understand this is a tough economy, but we’re willing to stand up for workers everywhere being taken advantage of by profitable corporations. It is unfair and wrong for these corporations doing so well to use the economy as an excuse to squeeze those working paycheck to paycheck.”
Canceling the contract does not mean grocery workers will walk out in 72 hours, but it removes the final barrier to a strike. After the contract is no longer in effect, a strike can be called at any time after 7 p.m. Sunday night.