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Supermarket Union Workers OK Strike

Ralphs, Albertsons and Vons supermarket workers in Southern California voted in late June to authorize union leaders to call a strike against their employers after months of stalled contract negotiations. Voting were 46,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, including from the union’s Local 770 chapter, which covers Los Angeles County, and six other chapters throughout Southern and Central California. Of all voters, 96 percent voted to reject the chains’ most recent contract offer and authorize a potential strike. That does not mean a strike will occur. Rather, it means that the union is empowered to call for a strike whenever it deems one necessary. This pressures the grocery companies to compromise on a contract to avoid such a walkout. Last week, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor voiced its endorsement of a potential strike, which could include picket lines and boycotts. “The outcome of the strike authorization vote does not change anything related to this process,” said Albertsons in a statement. “We remain committed to negotiating a contract that is fair to all parties, including our employees, and will continue to work to achieve that.” Union laborers have been working without a contract since March. The previous agreement, approved by workers in 2016, included annual raises and increased pay for cashiers and compromises on holiday pay and retirement age. The grocery companies’ latest contract offer would cut health care benefits for floor workers and increase pay for cashiers by less than 1 percent on a three-year term. UFCW770 called the offer “disrespectful” and “unfair.” The next negotiation session is scheduled for July 10-12. The negotiations echo those of 2003, when Albertsons, Vons, Ralphs and Pavilions workers went on strike for 141 days. That strike cost the involved chains a combined $1.5 billion and their workers as much as $300 million in wages. It remains the longest grocery strike in U.S. history.

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