San Diego Grocery Workers Vote to Authorize Union to Strike

by on June 27, 2019 · 1 comment

in Labor, Ocean Beach, San Diego

If there is a strike there would most probably be picket lines at the Midway District Vons. If you shop there, please don’t cross the lines and find alternative markets.

Grocery workers throughout San Diego County have voted to authorize their union to call a strike if negotiations with supermarket chains stall. They were joined in the call by thousands of their fellow workers across Southern California in voting overwhelmingly to give the okay to the leaderships of their union, the United Food and Commercial Workers.

97 per cent of grocery workers in San Diego County voted to approve a strike.

There is no strike yet. But it definitely could happen if the major chains fail to negotiate a new contract successfully with the unions who represent the people who run the stores.

Which major stores are we talking about? Ralph’s, Albertsons and Vons – and Pavilions (an upscale version of Vons). Alone, Albertsons has over a 1,000 stores across North America. This would include no doubt the Vons on Midway Drive.

What is the status of the negotiations? They’re on hold as of right now after weeks of being stalled, but are scheduled to begin again July 10 and go on for several days.

As the San Diego Union-Tribune reported:

The union announced Wednesday morning the outcome of a strike authorization vote conducted at multiple locations earlier in the week. Some 46,000 unionized workers, from north of Santa Maria all the way to the U.S.- Mexico border, are still working under a three-year contract that expired March 3.

The move toward a possible strike was nearly unanimous among those union members who turned out to vote. The margin of support was 96 percent across the UFCW’s seven locals.

There are seven Southern California UFCW locals. If a strike is called it would be the first such strike by Southern California grocery workers since 2003.

The president of the San Diego branch, UFCW Local 135 President Todd Walters told Ken Stone, writing for the Times of San Diego:

“The members – they kicked butt yesterday. I’m very proud of them. I’m proud of Local 135.”

Explaining the stalling tactics of the chains, Walters said, since March, there’s been a lack of progress on employers’ contributions to the health care trust fund.

“We’ve done 17 negotiating sessions so far and [had] three tentative agreements on minor issues. Stuff we shouldn’t be wasting more than 15 minutes time on.”

Stone continues to quote Walters, who as Stone notes, is leading the San Diego negotiations for the first time since he ousted the  morally bankrupt Mickey Kasparian in December:

“We haven’t raised the contribution rates on health care in six years,” Walters said in a phone interview. “So we need a small amount — 15 cents an hour or something. And every day they delay these negotiations they’re delaying that increase in contributions amount.”

The delay, he said, is putting members’ health care in jeopardy “because the longer you go — at some point it’s not funded right.”

In fact, handouts distributed at Monday’s voting at the Scottish Rite Center next to Local 135 headquarters said the companies’ offer “critically weakens your health benefit fund by refusing to pay the amount required to fully protect medical, dental, vision, chiropractic benefits, creating a risk of benefit cuts and a deficit going into negotiations in 2022.”

Walters told Stone he’s “mortified” that talks may stretch into August — after sessions July 10-12 and another three-day meeting starting July 30. Walters said:

“At some point … if we think this negotiation process is not really moving like it should, then the decision can be made to pull the trigger. We want to negotiate a contract, not a strike.”

How would a strike be decided? Only after discussions involving all the locals in the negotiating room — and only via unanimous verdict.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Avatar Eric June 28, 2019 at 10:34 am

This sucks for the workers. I walked the line twice with retail clerks long ago for extended periods over two consecutive contracts, it hurts. You never really gain but usually lose something and certainly don’t make back the weeks or months of salary you lost on the bricks. So glad I got out. If you work big chain grocery get signed up for some night classes or do some online courses, get out. I don’t expect Cerberus Capital Management (aptly named) to play fair. Sadly I’d expect the net loss will go to the clerks.

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