Southland grocery workers at Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons may soon go on strike, City News Service reported. On Thursday evening, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 issued a 72-hour notice canceling the contract extension.
This move is the precursor to a possible strike. In mid-August, an overwhelming majority of workers voted to authorize a strike for the second time this year; however, both sides expressed a desire to continue with contract negotiations at the time. Workers have been working without a contract since March 6.
"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 a statement from the union.
"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."
In response, Albertsons and Vons released statements of their own, with Albertsons saying the union and supermarket chains are still in "active negotiations" and are making progress and Vons saying that canceling the contract extension "needlessly alarms our employees and our customers."
"The notice does not mean a strike is imminent or that a strike will necessarily occur at any point," the latter's statement read. "The notice simply allows the union the ability to call a strike if they choose to do so."
Nevertheless, several stores have begun accepting applications for fill-in workers, just in case the union members do go on strike.
According to the UFCW, grocery workers will now prepare for a strike by gathering at union headquarters to assemble signs, stockpiling food and continuing picket training, City News Service reported.
At issue right now is health-care coverage. In the grocery chains' latest proposal, workers would pay about $36 per month for individual health insurance or $92 per month for family coverage. Still, the union says the insurance fund that pays for health care will run out of money within 16 months if the chains themselves don't contribute more to the fund.
No agreement on wages had been reached; however, the two sides did reach an agreement on pensions earlier in the summer.
Both sides have said they want to avoid a situation like the 141-day strike that occurred in 2003-2004, which cost the stores an estimated $1.5 billion and wiped out the life savings of many workers. Many shoppers also permanently changed their habits and began shopping at specialty outlets like and .
In interviews with Redondo Beach Patch, some area residents said they would be more likely to shop at other grocery outlets like Bristol Farms, or Fresh & Easy if the workers did go on strike; however, others like South Bay resident Jake H., who declined to disclose his last name, was willing to cross picket lines.
"I don't think I have a very good feeling about how unions are acting nowadays, so ultimately it wouldn't affect me at all," he said. "I think our family would continue to go to Ralphs."
Albertsons and Vons have three locations each in Redondo Beach, while has a store in North Redondo Beach off Hawthorne Boulevard.
City News Service contributed to this report.