The United Food and Commercial Workers Union 770 issued a 72-hour notice canceling the grocery contract extension and paving the way for a strike.
UFCW 770 represents Albertsons, Vons, and Ralph’s among other grocery chains, which are not part of this negotiation.
“While we’re disappointed that the union leadership has taken this step, we remain committed to reaching an agreement. We are encouraged because active negotiations are ongoing and certainly just because they posted a 72-hour notice does not mean that a strike is eminent,” Kendra Doyel, spokesperson for Ralphs Grocery Company
Union officials say canceling the contract does remove the final barrier to a strike. After the contract is no longer in effect, a strike can be called at any time.
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Rick Icaza, president of the grocery workers union Local 770, said they’d returned to the bargaining table “ready to compromise” but were stonewalled.
“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,” said Icaza.
Negotiations are now in their eighth month. The sticking point is wage increases, but more troubling is health care.
According to the union the supermarket corporations “refuse to pay their share of health contributions.”
Doyel says the Ralph’s is asking its employees to pay $9 a week for single coverage, and $23 a week for full family coverage.
“Some people right now don’t pay anything for their health care. So they would go from zero to $9. Some of our employees pay $7 a week for individual coverages. So they would increase by two dollars,” Doyel said.
Union officials say current health care proposals would bankrupt health plans and eliminate health care access for 62,000 grocer workers across Southern California.
“We would disagree. We believe with the additional money we are putting in to the health care trust fund it would absolutely be sustainable for the length of the contract,” said Doyel.
Doyel said help wanted signs were posted at Ralph’s stores this morning in case of a strike which could happen at 7 p.m. Sunday night.