Grocery Strike 2011: Chain Negotiators 'Still at the Table' With So Calif. Workers

  @ibtimes on September 19 2011 10:16 AM

Contract negotiations continue between grocery chain Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons and its workers, who on Thursday issued a 72-hour notice to cancel a contract extension after the deadline passed on Sunday evening.

Nearly eight months of negotiations have dragged on as result of management refusing to pay for workers' fair share of health care contributions, grocery unions said.

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 leaders of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), a union representing nearly 62,000 Southern California supermarket workers.

The notice detailed the union's plan to cancel its extended contract, which expired in March and had been renewed on a day-to-day basis by the grocery chain, a move that opened the door for workers to strike if an acceptable deal could not be reached.

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, leaders said.

According to a statement, current health care proposals would bankrupt health plans and eliminate entirely health care access for grocery workers across Southern California.

Grocery workers said they 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.

Although, Jeff Swanson, a spokesman for Albertsons parent Supervalu Inc, said, Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons are still at the table with the union. Progress is being made, but we do not yet have an agreement.

Canceling the contract does not mean grocery workers will walk out in 72 hours, but it removes the final barrier to a strike. Union leaders say, We're ready to fight to preserve good jobs.

Since the last strike and lockout in 2003-04, which lasted 141 days, the three big grocers have hemorrhaged market share, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The union remarked, 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.

During that time, the grocery chains held nearly 60 percent of the Southern California grocery trade, according to the research firm Strategic Resource Group in New York.

I work hard for my company, Kelly Pierce, a grocery worker, said in a statement. 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?

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