Grocery union vote backs strike at Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons
Members of a union that represents 62,000 grocery workers at Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons supermarkets in Southern California voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if an agreement on a new contract can't be reached.
The strike authorization won the backing of more than 90% of the United Food and Commercial Workers members who voted, easily more than the two-thirds majority required, the union said.
The union said it would report the vote results Monday to a federal mediator trying to resolve the contract dispute.
Since the latest contract governing wages, healthcare benefits, and workplace rules expired in March. union and management negotiators have met more than 53 times. Healthcare benefits are a major area of contention.
Both sides said they would like to avoid a repeat of a four-and-a-half-month strike and lockout in 2003.
"We don’t want to strike," said Rick Icaza, president of the union's Local 770, the biggest of seven locals representing workers who would covered by a new contract. "We want to get back to work taking care of customers and our families. But the corporate owners of the supermarkets refuse to negotiate fairly to reach a compromise."
In a statement, Ralphs spokeswoman Kendra M. Doyel called the strike authorization a commonly used negotiating tactic and said it did not necessarily mean a strike would be called.
"Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons remain committed to reaching a contract that is good for our employees and keeps these union jobs sustainable for the future." Doyel said.
Daymond Rice, a Vons spokesman, said the negotiations "have not fully run their course. The employers intend to stay focused and engaged in the bargaining process. We remain hopeful that we can peacefully reach a settlement that works for both sides."
-- W.J. Hennigan
Photo: A supermarket worker casts her ballot Friday in Harbor City in a vote that authorized a strike against Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons in Southern California. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times