90% of Grocery Workers Vote to Authorize Strike Against Vons, Ralphs, and Albertsons

by on August 22, 2011 · 26 comments

in California, Health, Labor, Popular, San Diego

“If we don’t get a deal, “ grocery workers union leader pledged, “we’ll take this fight to the streets.”  Picketing could begin this week.

By East County Magazine

A grocery workers’ strike at Vons, Albertsons and Ralphs supermarkets could begin as early as this week. Union members voted overwhelmingly on Saturday to authorize leaders to call a strike, with 90% voting in favor.

Workers have been without a contract since March 6th. At issue is a proposal by the supermarket chains to push healthcare contribution costs onto workers at rates averaging $96 per employee, though some workers with families could be forced to come up with hundreds of dollars more per month, with no pay raise. Workers’ representatives also contend that the employers’ offer underfunds health benefits and that the fund will run out of money.

 “I have the most amazing members,” Mickey Kasparian, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135 in San Diego, posted on his Facebook page. “Yesterday, more than 10,000 grocery workers in San Diego authorized a strike by an OVERWHELMING margin to protect their health benefits. I am so proud of them for standing up for themselves and their family.”

 Workers voted to support a strike back in April by a 90% margin — then voted again Saturday to affirm that position after months of failed negotiations.

The soonest a strike could occur would be 72 hours after votes are counted, however it’s expected that both sides will likely attempt another round at the bargaining table with a federal mediator, the San Diego Union-Tribune has reported. The strike would impact stores throughout Southern California at all three chains, potentially.

 “Asking for strike authorization is a common tactic in negotiations and does not necessarily mean a strike will be called by the union,” Ralphs spokesperson Kendra Doyel said in a prepared statement released on Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reported. The statement added that all three grocery chains “remain committed to reaching a contract that is good for our employees and keeps these union jobs sustainable for the future.”

 A statement issued by Vons after Saturday’s vote said the company remains hopeful of reaching a settlement. “The rhetoric around strike votes and harming the companies needlessly alarms and confuses our employees and customers. Likewise, it only distracts the parties from reaching a settlement.”

For employees like Renee Chappell, bakery manager at Albertsons in Spring Valley, the proposal by grocery stores would take a bit bite out of her household budget—leaving her with $200 less per month than she takes home now, the Union-Tribune reported. “I feel like my employer let me down. I feel like the union let me down.”

Victoria Frantz, an Albertsons employee, told Rancho Bernardo Patch that she makes around $24,000 a year in her part-time job. “I can’t afford to pay thousands more so I can bring my kids to a doctor.”

For the supermarkets, a strike could have devastating consequences. A grocery workers’ strike in 2003 and 2004 cost the chains an estimated $2 billion in lost business. Some customers shifted allegiances to competitors such as Stater Brothers (where employees are unionized) as well as non-unionized competitors such as CostCo and Trader Joe’s. With a plethora of farmer’s markets now throughout San Diego County, shoppers now have even more alternatives to crossing a picket line.

A poll in the San Diego Union-Tribune [Sunday, Aug. 21] showed nearly 40% of participants indicated that they would not cross picket lines and would support striking workers by shopping elsewhere.

If no positive movement is seen in the next several days, however, a strike appears likely.

“If we don’t get a deal, “ Kasparian pledged, “We’ll take this fight to the streets.”


{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

editordude August 22, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Grocery Workers Prepare to Strike

Though no strike has yet been called, the members of the United Food and Commercial Workers voted overwhelmingly against the latest offer from Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons, which would devastate their health care. While we continue to hope that final negotiations will produce a fair contract, we need to remind these Fortune 500 companies that we stand with and support the grocery workers.

Please support the 62,000 grocery workers from Santa Barbara to San Ysidro who face a looming strike. Join us for leafletting and a rally on Wednesday.
Wednesday, August 24
from noon to 1:30 p.m.

at Downtown Ralphs Store
101 G Street, San Diego 92101


editordude August 22, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Latest from the U-T:
Grocery workers in Southern California won’t be going on strike – at least not this week – because both sides are planning one last attempt at reaching a deal.

Workers at Albertsons, Vons and Ralphs voted this weekend to authorize union leaders to call a strike, if necessary, after six months of negotiations with the grocery chains.

As expected, a federal mediator then ordered both sides back to the bargaining table, according to Mickey Kasparian, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135 in San Diego and Imperial counties. A meeting has been arranged for August 29.

“We are pleased to get back to the bargaining table,” Kasparian said. “Certainly, we will move forward to get a deal. But make no mistake about it: We will not have any more delay tactics by management. If we don’t get a deal done in an expedited amount of time, there will be a labor dispute.” http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2011/aug/22/no-strike-week-grocery-workers/


thinking out loud August 22, 2011 at 7:36 pm

With 10% unemployment in San Diego and more than 17% the real unemployment figure there are plenty of bodies to check out food at a store….After all its not freakin rocket science…if you can run a bag of chips under a scanner you can do the job…gimme a break…..
let them sit home for a few months they will be thankful they had a fing job…big ass crybabies !!!


Patty Jones August 22, 2011 at 10:08 pm

We should just stand aside and keep our mouths shut when the companies we work for want to keep cutting our benefits, while they make billions and keep chipping away at our society. Vons, Ralphs, Albertsons, THEY are the big ass crybabies. Before long even rocket scientists won’t have any benefits.


Grateful Grape August 23, 2011 at 12:10 am

I can understand the complaint about health care costs but it comes down to complacency. It’s kind of a gamble. If your young you may not need it however
if you’re an aging worker – that what it (health care) is for. Strikingly and nobody is looking at the situation from this perspective is – health care providers need to
let patients know the cost. It is absurd to keep getting a cholesterol check ($300.00 UCSD) every three months! Ridiculous. Even if a health insurer is billing for the
test. Providers need to stop milking the insurers and playing on patients ignorance.


Dazzlin' Dizzy Dean August 23, 2011 at 4:00 am

Solution give the worker a buffet of health plans to choose that meet their needs and make the doctors who order tests, explain why and give the patient a receipt. That way when the hospital says “oh she ordered a cholesterol check” and the insurer disputes/doesn’t pay. The patient isn’t libel. You’d be surprised at how many clinics, and managed choice plans milk the system. The buck stops here, so I’ll side with the grocers. Bless their fat pocketbooks, purses, wallets and runny noses.


thinking out loud August 23, 2011 at 6:30 am

What chips away at society is entitlement. The things/benefits workers had at one point in time might change as times changes.
Lot’s of people who have no job , no benefits of any kind , little food, late rent and limping around in a car ready to break down will jump at the chance to get a paycheck and provide for their families. There are 1000s of workers who have lost unemployment benefits I bet they are praying these spoiled workers take a hike and go on strike.
Lots of workers are spoiled rotten babies! This group of workers falls into that category in my estimation.
As far as how much money these companies make …..how much is it? Have they seen profits decrease ? Are they bearing the burden to keep the doors open ??
These workers should be happy they have a paycheck that cashes and shut the hell up.


Frank Gormlie August 23, 2011 at 9:56 am

So it’s just eat or be eaten is it ‘thinking out loud’? Screw the other guy as long as I can get mine, eh? Piss on other people who want to protect the little they have, and if I’m inconvenienced along the way by having to walk through picket signs, I’ll keep my little bubble lifted with my own hot air. Keep it up, and someday you’ll be down in the dumps, but there won’t be anyone left to help you up.


Christopher Moore August 23, 2011 at 10:19 am

I said the same thing back in the 1890’s: those little 12 year olds should be glad they can get a 10 hour shift in a coal mine for a buck a day and shut the hell up!

Spoiled little brats…


Frank Gormlie August 23, 2011 at 10:50 am



OB Joe August 23, 2011 at 10:54 am

TOL – what gets me is that you have no acknowledgement in your comments about any knowledge of the American trade union movement of these last 100 years. Are you not aware of those who went before you, that your little privileged lifestyle is being lived ontop of the heads of all those union activists that came before you. You know the people who brought you the weekend, the 40 hour workweek, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, social security ….

You sound like you live in your own little world, unaware of history, of the struggles that your fellow Americans had to go through just to get YOU where you are. Your written thoughts sound like they’re right out of the 19th century. Dude, wake up – join this century!


john August 23, 2011 at 11:29 am

I think all of you are being kind of hard on TOL, his position would be false and hollow if we all had these good paying full benefit positions OR if their numbers were on the upward swing due to union lobbying for more of them.
No the fact is they are declining at an alarming rate because not everyone can have the good life, union processes protect incompetants from being fired for their inherent faults, in time business either moves offshore in search of labor pools with lesser standards of “the good life” or ceases to exist altogether.
His point is going to be further supported when they do strike and the only impediment to these grocers filling these positions with qualified personnel will be intimidation, thuggery and violence by those manning the picket lines.
Still don’t think I’m too detached to not understand the valid points made by Frank et. al, about the 1890’s and workplace abuses. Some protections are always necessary. However it’s come full circle and with business as tight as it is there isn’t room for a corrupt entity creating animosity between companiees and their employees and skimming $2 an hour off their pay to do so.


Goatskull August 23, 2011 at 11:31 am

“Please, sir, I want some more.”


Frank Gormlie August 23, 2011 at 11:33 am

Goatskull – where ya been?


Goatskull August 23, 2011 at 11:41 am

Still around. Just get busy sometimes.


Sheep's clothing August 23, 2011 at 1:53 pm

I no longer shop at Von’s because of their posted requirement…all employees who require sick leave, even one day of absence, must have a doctor’s note when the employee returns to work. What a draconian management style!!


john August 23, 2011 at 2:57 pm

I dunno, this is paid sick leave we’re talking, right?
In my brief experience in management some years ago with up to a dozen guys in a warehouse beneath me and me having to explain to the owner why I couldn’t do my job correctly when things couldn’t be done by a deadline if a few guys didn’t show up for work, and listening to their lame stories…
To me this just seems an ideal way to remove the insult to both of our intelligence inherent to their “dog ate my homework” type excuses for them nursing hangovers or spending the morning in bed shagging their new girlfriend.
(understandably a high priority at age 21 or so)
I think I was less insulted by the tweeker who just flat out admitted that going to F street bookstore was more appealing than work that day.


Sheep's clothing August 23, 2011 at 4:04 pm

I have no idea if it is paid or not. If it is paid then its part of the employee’s compensation for the employee to use as she/he determines. There are ways for managers to make adjustments and meet the needs of their department while respecting the employee’s ability to make decisions. In your case you were the cushion absorbing heat for an owner who thinks she/he is a manager. I don’t want my checker sneezing around my apricots and my checker need not add to the medical bureaucracy by having to go to the doctor unnecessarily. I would hope that those who repeatedly make poor decisions would remain “baggers for life”. Thanks for your thoughts!!
– Show quoted text –


john August 23, 2011 at 10:07 pm

“I don’t want my checker sneezing around my apricots and my checker need not add to the medical bureaucracy by having to go to the doctor unnecessarily. ”

On that point you’d be undeniably right, I hadn’t considered it from that angle.
I would posit the policy was initiated on the heels of some instances like my boys with their “dog ate my homework” stories rather than the above though it’s only speculating.


The Bearded Obecian August 23, 2011 at 8:01 pm

How much do a lot of these cashiers make? If I recall correctly from their last strike, a good number of people manning the checkout made in the neighborhood of $20 per hour. A not unprincely sum for the position methinks. If that’s still the case, a cut here and there doesn’t seem so terrible. Even in the corporate world, we’ve dealt with cutbacks to benefits etc. I’d prefer a cut to my benefits than the breadline if you ask me.


ribeye72 August 24, 2011 at 10:21 am

People don’t get it these workers don’t just get$20dls hr. Most have worked there 15 20 yrs and they earn it. Putting up with the public is not easy u can never understand unless u have done it. People can do or say anything they want to yo u or treat u like u are less of a person just because you work at a grocery store believe me that’s alot to put up with and do it wit a smile. Try to do it for 8hrs see what its like. Bet you won’t last. Try doing it for 20yrs they work hard they deserve there money. Leave them alone it takes alont to do their job it’s not as easy as you think.


john August 24, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Since our whole economy is service based now, dealing with the public is something we’ve nearly all done, not like it’s a great hardship. There are things to symptathize with them over, like having to stand at your station for X amount of time and not go to the bathroom or get a drink as you need to. Or all the times the items don’t scan like the shelf price said. You feel you’re getting ripped but it’s not their fault yet they are the only face there to scowl at.
Some checkers are pretty cool, I’ve been going to Ralphs sports arena for years and theirs are all sharp. The union stores do seem to have more professional employees.


thinking out loud August 24, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Well then the ” most” are not affected by this deal about benefits….
And gezze cry me a river for these workers…spare me.


mr.rick August 24, 2011 at 7:14 pm

tol,r u mad cuz u dn’t have job?


thinking out loud August 24, 2011 at 7:16 pm

dude u dont know me dont embarrasses yourself.


mr.rick August 24, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Easy,Bro, just saying hi!


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