Grocery workers cancel contract and give the required 72 hour notice – strike looms

by on September 15, 2011 · 20 comments

in California, Economy, Health, Labor, Popular, San Diego

Solidarity rally for grocery workers in front of downtown Ralphs, August 24, 2011. (Photo by Patty Jones)

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 After the contract is no longer in effect, a strike can be called at any time. 

By UCFW Local 135 / September 15, 2011

Frustrated at supermarket corporation stonewalling, workers take next step towards strike

As contract negotiations stall, grocery workers issued a 72-hour notice canceling the grocery contract extension and paving the way for a strike.

“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,” said union leaders. “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. Current health care proposals would bankrupt health plans and eliminate entirely health care access for 62,000 grocery workers across Southern California.

“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?”

“We’re ready to stand up for our jobs, and strike if we have to,” said Victoria Frantz. “This isn’t just about grocery workers anymore. This is about sending a message to profitable corporations everywhere that if your employees work hard, they deserve a fair wage and benefits.”

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.

Presidents of the Seven UFCW Local Unions in Southern California:

Jacques Loveall – UFCW 8-Golden State (Northern & Central Calif., plus Kern, Inyo & Mono Counties)

Mickey Kasparian – UFCW Local 135 (San Diego and Imperial Counties)

Greg Conger – UFCW Local 324 (Orange County and Long Beach area)

Rick Icaza – UFCW Local 770 (San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles Counties)

Bill Lathrop – UFCW Local 1167 (Inland Empire, including San Bernardino and Riverside Counties)

Connie M. Leyva – UFCW Local 1428 (Pomona and Claremont area)

Michael Straeter – UFCW Local 1442 (Santa Monica, Westwood, El Segundo and South Bay)

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar RB September 16, 2011 at 9:28 am

This is a big mistake.
A much better strategy would be to use an informational pickets campaign at the stores while you keep your members working. You do not have enough customer support.

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avatar mr fresh September 16, 2011 at 9:59 am

yeah, like the union would be listening to RB for advice, given the fact that he never misses a chance to dis unions or to try and deflect the issues. but i have to give you credit, you were first in line to try and undermine their cause.
i’ll say it now and i’ll say it proud: i won’t cross a picket line.

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avatar RB September 16, 2011 at 10:16 am

Information pickets have always been a reasonable and important tool for unions.
Only someone who is either uninformed, a blind fanatic, or has never been in a union would discredit this technique.

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avatar evoc September 16, 2011 at 6:21 pm

I used to say that…I wouldn’t cross a picket line. But the UFCW fell down when we at the hospital financial department needed them. They showed themselves to be a useless, impotent, timid group of folks not properly trained to represent anyone but store clerk workers. For them they did a good enough job.
I would not favor them by honoring a picket line they set up. Besides, don’t the store clerks already have a decent contract, and good benefits? Renew it. The economy is hard right now, maybe compromising is the appropriate thing to do instead of the UFCW trying to show strength. I would not voice this comment if I had to use my name and picture. That’s the great thing about America, we can have an opinion anonymously to protect our families. A group of us left the UT because of being forced to log in via facebook. Now we have a blog http://signedoffsandiego.com I hope anyone who values privacy will check it out…privacy respected, facebook free.

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avatar Jon Kaler September 18, 2011 at 10:26 pm

SignedOffSanDiego sounds interesting, but it requires JavaScript, I can’t find a privacy policy, and I’m wary of using 3rd-party providers for comments on something privacy-focused (although Disqus does take the headache out of comment hosting for general applications).

I’d love to see a JS-free version!

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avatar JPinSD September 16, 2011 at 11:56 am

Seems to me that this is all about health care. Unfortunately, health care isn’t free but I think $39-$100 a month is pretty reasonable. As a single male at my company it’s close to $120 per month.

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avatar Captain Obvious September 16, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Just to get it out there, the labor dispute isn’t over having to pay $23 a week. The issue is that the companies only want to pay into the benefit fund at a level that will see it collapse in 16 months leaving workers with NO insurance plan.

The companies pay into the health care fund at an hourly rate, not a per employee rate. Things would be different if most of the employees were full time, but infact most employees are kept at “part time” which means 24 hours a week. The hourly contribution is then spread too thin to provide insurance for each worker.

That’s why an increase in the weekly guarantee for hours is also a factor.

Those of you who claim to pay $800 a month for insurance sound like you could use a good union…but instead you will no doubt insist that everyone else around you join in your misery as we all race to the bottom in search of the lowest standard of living we can find. It’s a shame to see all the progress that has been made over the last 100 years go up in smoke. Many of you think there should only be 2 classes…the rich making over $100,000 a year, and those who are at the poverty level living on gov. assistance (paid for by the taxes of the rich…).

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avatar RB September 16, 2011 at 4:07 pm

But this plan is not obvious. I don’t see how training customers to go to non-union stores increases union jobs and leverage. Mickey Kasparian’s 2003 plan resulted in a large loss of pay for employees while on strike and a reduction of the union stores market share. Less product is still being bought at union stores even to this day. Destroying union stores and sending customers to non-union stores is stupid, IMO.

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avatar Captain Obvious September 16, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Really? You don’t see how ‘training’ customers to shop at the big 3’s competitors is leverage against the big 3? I guess maybe if you’re an exec at one of the big 3 companies and you don’t give a darn if anyone shops at your stores, it might not be leverage, but I’d hope that’s not the case.

Strikes are ugly and they hurt everyone. No one wants a strike, BUT it comes down to ‘who wants it more.’ Do the Big 3 want to screw their employees out of their health coverage more than the employees want to keep it?

Why not just kick in for the health insurance? Wouldn’t that be cheaper than the 2 billion dollars they lost in the last strike?

Not to mention the cost of all the lawsuits that followed the last strike when the big 3 chains were actually hiring striking workers to work as scabs in other towns where they wouldn’t be recognized! I won’t go into a discussion about the kind of scum that walks a picket line by day and then crosses it at night…but it says something about the value of these employees to the companies if they would rather hire them than people off the streets. Why not just pay them their benefits?

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avatar RB September 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm

There is no doubt that both the big 3 and employees are hurt by a strike and this is a very good reason to avoid a strike. As a consumer, I am now comfortable with shopping at Stumps (IGA) regularly, which I never used until the last strike, and also shopping at Fresh and Easy because the local Albertsons has closed (another union success?).

So enjoy your plan, and prepare for 120 days without pay.

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avatar Captain Obvious November 22, 2011 at 10:43 am

More like a poorly run company failing than a “union success.” It’s funny that some union companies thrive while working under the same contract under which other companies fail.

Look at the success companies like Stater Bros. have had while Alberson’s has been closing stores….both under the same union contract!

Some companies are just poorly run, and I guess the union workers don’t want to have to sacrifice to help compensate for the upper management’s shortcomings.

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avatar Michael September 16, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Thanks for the info about the health care fund. Sounds like another backhanded way to dismantle the middle class. Soon we may not need a border fence at all because we will be just like Mexico. A few very rich and a lot of very poor.

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avatar Gristmiller September 16, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Thank you Captain Obvious!

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avatar Cameron Miller September 16, 2011 at 5:39 pm

If strike does occur the total expansive cost and loss could topple 2B as variables in the present could be much higher than in the past.

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avatar thinking out loud September 16, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Let them all sit home and think about how lucky they were to have had a jobby job….A few extra dollars a month everybody including workers have to be flexible. If not as one of my construction boss’s would always say to guys who did not want to work hard doing piece work and these same guys bitched on friday when they got small check cause they slacked all week his famous line which i will never forget ….he would always say ” what ever you can afford” So to the workers who want to prove a point I say ” what ever you can afford”

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avatar Captain Obvious September 16, 2011 at 7:43 pm

…a few extra dollars a month. That part about there being ABSOLUTELY NO INSURANCE in 16 months because the companies don’t want to contribute enough to the fund over the life of the contract just went right over your head, didn’t it?!

You still think people are willing to go 141 days without a paycheck just to avoid having to pay a few dollars a month extra. REALLY? wow.

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avatar annagrace September 16, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Captain Obvious- I am with you. Thank you for your responses to this post. There is a rally tomorrow & we will be there.
Rally to Protect Grocery Workers!
9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 17
Ralphs in Hillcrest
1030 University Ave, San Diego 92103

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avatar RB September 16, 2011 at 9:00 pm

This could be the last time you can visit Ralphs.

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avatar Captain Obvious September 17, 2011 at 5:55 am

I guess all those people who were looking forward to getting jobs as SCABS are gonna be out of luck.

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avatar Baby Jane Hudson September 19, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Frick and frack!

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