Grocery workers across Southern California voted overwhelmingly to give their negotiators the power to call a strike if contract negotiations break down.
The contract covering nearly 50,000 grocery workers expired in March, and the union has been attempting to negotiate a new deal with the Kroger Corporation (owner of Ralphs) and Cerberus Capital (owner of Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, and Albertsons).
“We don’t want to strike, we understand the impact on consumers, our communities, and our members,” said Rick Icaza, president of the largest local union representing grocery workers, UFCW Local 770. “But the out-of-state corporations and hedge funds controlling the stores may leave us no choice. Despite profits of over a half billion dollars, they are still demanding our workers give up retirement and health care security and forgo raises for two years. That’s not fair, and it’s not right.”
“Grocery workers are the front line for working class families in Southern California,” said John Grant, Secretary Treasurer of Local 770. “These corporations know that if they can take away our hard fought and modest retirement and health care security in the bright light of day, they will have no trouble doing the same to every other working family in California. We have a responsibility not just to our members and other grocery workers, but to every family fighting to make ends meet.”
Despite combined profits of over half a billion dollars a year, the two corporate owners are demanding dramatic reductions that could result in the collapse of the retirement and health care plans for grocery workers, leaving many without their savings and pushed onto public assistance. The proposed 3 year contract contains only one raise, and two years of no raises. It would also extend to almost seven years the time it would take a grocery worker to gain promotions enough to make $750 a week.
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