Supermarket Strike Hits LB: Pickets At Vons/Pavilions, Albertsons & Ralphs
(Oct. 12, 2003) -- Pickets were up by early this morning at ELB's Pavilions, Albertsons and Ralphs markets after talks broke down about 10:30 p.m. last night between the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union and the three grocery chains.
LBReport.com was on scene at the ELB Pavilions (Spring/Los Coyotes) when the first pickets appeared at 10:45 p.m. Oct 11.
Albertsons and Ralphs (Kroger) promptly announced they would lock out UFCW workers as a defensive response...and all three chains began advertising to hire replacement workers.
By early Sunday morning, pickets were up at the ELB Albertsons (Spring/Palo Verde)...
...and Ralphs (Wardlow/Los Coyotes).
A number of passing cars honked horns (in photo, along Wardlow Rd. in front of a Ralphs location). Strikers near driveways handed out fliers stating in part:
Attention Shoppers! A Major Strike may soon disrupt your family shopping.
...[W]e ask you not to cross our picket lines. Instead...please take your valuable business to one of these union stores: [Food 4 Less, Gelson's, Gigante, Rite Aid, Stater Bros., Super A, Super Savers.]
Business at the ELB Stater Bros (Palo Verde @ Spring) was brisk with plenty of shoppers at 8:30 a.m. Sunday. Parking lots appeared thinner than usual at the nearby Pavilions, Albertsons and Ralphs locations at that hour.
On Oct. 10, UFCW's seven locals representing almost 70,000 So. Cal. supermarket workers, voted to reject offers by three supermarket companies -- Albertsons, Safeway (Vons) and Kroger (Ralphs) -- and authorize union leaders to call a strike. The vote to reject the proposals surpassed 97 percent, UFCW's web site says.
UFCW said the three supermarket chains had tried to "impose a package of severe cuts in benefits for their employees" and "aim to set up a 'second tier' of wages, benefits and working conditions for new employees."
"This is a battle between corporate greed and human need -- and, we are asking our communities to stand with us--we are your friends, your neighbors, we serve you everyday in your local supermarket. We ask for your support," said a statement on UFCW's web site.
UFCW said workers would only target one supermaket chain to "limit the inconvenience to our customers" and urged the other two chains not to engage in a lockout.
When Safeway (Vons/Pavilions) markets were struck, Albertsons and Ralphs announced a lockout of their UFCW workers.
An Oct. 6 statement by the three grocery chains, posted on albertsons.com, said "All three grocery companies have fully executed plans in place in preparation for a strike and will continue operating their stores and serving customers in the event the union calls one." It include quotes from company executives:
Ralphs president John Burgon: "We are seeking nothing more than a fair contract that will help us to remain competitive in the face of soaring health care and benefit costs and increased competition from lower-cost operators."
Albertsons So. Cal Division President Dave Simonson: "In light of the current competitive environment our proposals are generous and will continue to provide wages and benefits for our existing associates that are among the best in our industry."
Vons president Tom Keller: "We are seeing a significant influx of non-union, discount stores and unionized independent operators with union contract agreements that provide lower wages and significantly fewer benefits than we provide. These formats pay much lower labor expense than we do. This gives them an unfair advantage over other union operators."
The grocer's statement said that under the recently expired contract, "a supermarket clerk can earn up to $17.90 in wages after just two years of employment. Clerks earning $17.90 per hour also earn very generous fringe benefits, such as $26.85 per hour for all hours worked on Sunday and $53.70 per hour for working on contractual holidays. Additionally, all eligible supermarket clerks from baggers to supervisors receive full health care coverage, paying no out-of-pocket premiums, while only requiring a $10 doctor visit co-pay. In addition, the HMO plan requires no premium paid by the employee, no co-pay for office visits, no deductible and only nominal prescription co-payments."
Further to follow as newsworthy.