Grocery workers go on strike at Kroger supermarkets


Food workers across Southern California on Monday began authorizing a strike at Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions to pressure businesses to raise wages.

More than 47,000 workers in 500 stores will be eligible to vote over five days, with the result expected to be announced on Sunday.

A three-year contract between United Food and Commercial Workers and Kroger, Ralphs’ parent company, and Albertsons, owner of Vons and Pavilions, expired March 6.

Talks between the union’s seven local residents and the companies stalled two weeks ago. A vote to authorize the strike does not necessarily lead to a strike. It gives union leaders the right to call a strike if no agreement can be reached.

Intensive negotiations have been taking place since January, “progressing at a regular rhythm,” said John Grant, President of the UFCW 770. “Then two weeks ago it came to an abrupt standstill. I think the companies wanted to see if the workers would stand up and ask for the contract they deserve.”

Food workers have suffered during the pandemic, he added. “I have never seen such militancy. It’s like we went through hell and now we can’t stop.”

Earlier this month, the union filed complaints with the Federal Industrial Relations Council over unfair labor practices and accused the companies of illegal intimidation, including videotaping workers at rallies and when they presented petitions to managers. The companies gave employees a one-off $100 bonus, which the union described as a “bribe” to influence negotiations, and they failed to provide the information needed to negotiate, according to filings filed with the NLRB .

Kelli McGannon, a Kroger spokeswoman, said negotiations are set to resume the week of March 28. The charges of unfair labor practices “are nothing more than fabricated charges designed to create confusion. Ralphs has and will continue to comply with the law,” she said in an email.

In a statement, Ralphs said the vote creates “unnecessary concern for our employees and communities at a time when we should come together in good faith to find solutions and compromises.” At Ralphs, our focus remains on closing a deal with UFCW.”

Albertsons did not respond to a request for comment.

The companies offer the highest tier of food workers — full-time inspectors with five years of experience earning $22.50 an hour — a 60-cent annual increase over three years.

However, about three-quarters of the food workers at the stores are part-time, Grant said, as companies have slashed full-time schedules over the years.

Grant called the proposed wage increase “paltry,” especially given high inflation, and far less than the companies recently agreed at the Oregon and Colorado stores. The union is proposing a pay rise of $2.00 in the first year of contract for the highest-paid workers, $1.50 in the second year and $1.50 in the third year, with larger increases for lower-paid workers. Grocery workers go on strike at Kroger supermarkets

Adam Bradshaw

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