Could A California Grocery Worker Strike Spur A Nationwide Movement? The State's Grocery Unions ‘Are Poised To Strike Against’ Albertsons & Ralphs, ‘The Latest In A Wave Of Protests For Balancing Fair Pay With Corporate Profits’
(THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA) - When Sharon Hechler started working in Arcadia, California as a Cashier for the Supermarket Chain Albertsons 46 years ago, she never intended to make it her lifelong career. “Then, ‘I found out I loved it,’” she told Civil Eats. “Once upon a time, ‘it was a great job.’ ‘We had some of the best pay, the best benefits.’ ‘So, I thought I was set for life.’” That shifted when the variety of grocery store chains in Southern California “kept ‘gobbling each other up,’” Hechler said. “Now, there’s like ‘two major’ companies ‘and they’re setting the tone for the consumer and the Worker, and greed has set in.’”
Hechler can’t remember the last time she received a pay raise and that many of her colleagues have fared far worse than she has: “The (people) I work with they ‘are counting out their pennies to buy a pound of hamburger, and I see them working every day.’ ‘It’s not fair.’”
On August 1st, Hechler was one of a few dozen Grocery Store Workers picketing outside a Ralphs in Pasadena, with signs that read: “Put People Over Profits” and “Fighting To Defend Quality Jobs.”
Workers have been picketing outside Southern California Grocery Stores since United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Locals voted in June to authorize a Strike against the Albertsons - which also owns Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, and 16 other retail chains - and Ralphs, the largest subsidiary of Kroger (which also owns 15 other retail chains).
If a Strike does take place, it would be the first time in 15 years that Southern California Grocery Store Employees took part in a work stoppage.
A mass action this fall could yield powerful results for Grocery Store Workers, since their counterparts in Oregon and Washington are also mobilizing.
On August 24st, UFCW Local 555 - which represents Oregon and part of Washington, voted to authorize a Strike against Albertsons, Fred Meyer, QFC and Safeway.
The UFCW Locals in Southern California voted to authorize a Strike after Grocery Store Workers were offered less than a 1% salary increase, a particularly paltry sum in one of the country’s most expensive regions, especially considering Albertsons reported making $5.2 billion in profit on $18.7 billion in sales in its latest quarterly earnings report.
Since March, the Grocery Store Workers have been negotiating for higher pay and to keep their existing health benefits, but after 26 bargaining meetings, they have yet to agree on a new contract with their employers.
On August 26th, UFCW 770 in Los Angeles issued a statement notifying its Membership that all Southern California Locals will hold meetings September 9th “to vote to accept or reject the employers’ final offer.”
The Local said that it has also filed “Unfair Labor Practice Charges” against Ralphs and Albertsons for reportedly prohibiting Workers from participating in Union Activity outside stores.
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