The United Food and Commercial Workers international Union (UFCW) which represents tens of thousands of grocery store workers, has warned that a strike may be imminent. Local UFCW chapters voted to allow the strike if union representatives are unable to reach an agreement with management of four of the region’s biggest chains–Ralphs, Vons, Albertsons, and Pavilions–during a round of negotiations scheduled to wrap up on Friday, June 12.
Among the union’s demands are an increase in hourly wages, better health benefits, expanded pension programs, and the elimination of a tiered system whereby workers who prepare food in the deli and bakery departments are paid less than other workers on the shop floor.
Union representatives report that the proposal they received from management would include wage raises of less than 1 percent–and a 25 percent cut to wages for cashiers. Ralphs management, however, says they feel the offer on the table is “generous,” noting that they offer benefits including a paid pension program, which is a rarity in the industry.
“With a balanced approach, this agreement can be a win for everyone—our associates, our communities, and our company,” Ralphs president Mike Murphy wrote in a statement.
The grocery workers have been operating without an official contract since the previous one expired on March 3, Supermarket News reports. The California strike could involve nearly 60,000 workers from San Luis Obispo to San Diego. Local UFCW chapters in Oregon and Washington are preparing for a parallel strike targeting the same chains.
The last time L.A. grocery workers went on strike was in 2003, a strike that lasted nearly five months and cost the companies an estimated $1.5 billion in lost revenue, according to KCRW. During that strike, the powerful Teamsters union ordered its own members to respect the picket lines, even if it meant disrupting deliveries of goods; earlier this month, the Teamsters officially endorsed the UFCW strike plan.