Inspired by strike threats from workers at Ralphs, Albertsons and Vons earlier this year, Food 4 Less employees voted Thursday to authorize a strike if parent company Kroger Co. does not offer them better wages and benefits.
Members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) from seven Southern California unions said workers at Food 4 Less sometimes make as much as $3 less than comparable employees at Ralphs, another Kroger chain.
The UFCW said in a statement that Cincinnati-based Kroger is “deliberately stalling progress” on negotiations as a way to “weaken union resolve.” Bargaining, the unions said, is expected to resume later this month.
UFCW finalized a three-year labor contract with Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons in September after months of negotiations, calling the final deal a “win-win” for both sides.
“We have seen what staying united can do when you are in a fight with mega-corporations,” said UFCW member Beatrice Lopez in a statement Friday. “UFCW members at Ralphs stuck together and ended up with a contract that shows them respect. We are going to do the same.”
Kroger could not be reached for comment. Other Kroger chains include Fred Meyer and City Market.
[Updated 1:30 p.m.: “Food 4 Less remains committed to reaching an agreement that is good for our employees and helps keep union jobs sustainable for the future,” said Kendra Doyel, a spokeswoman for the chain, in a statement. “We will continue to work with union leadership to negotiate a contract. Our employees do not want to strike and they look forwrad to serving customers in our stores throughout the holiday season.”]
The grocery chain’s same-store sales without fuel were up 5% in the third quarter ending Nov. 5 compared to the same period last year -- making for 32 straight quarterly increases, Kroger said.
Earnings were down to $195.9 million, or $0.33 per diluted share, from $202 million, or $0.32 per diluted share in the same period last year.
In a conference call with analysts this month, Kroger President W. Rodney McMullen said the company had closed labor negotiations in Southern California, Ohio, West Virginia and Washington.
“Our objective in every negotiation is to find a fair and reasonable balance between competitive costs and compensation packages that provide good wages, high-quality affordable healthcare and retirement benefits for our associates,” he said.
-- Tiffany Hsu
Photo credit: Kiichiro Sato / Associated Press