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Rev. Jesse Jackson stands behind grocery workers

August 17, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Rev. Jesse Jackson gave his support to Southern California grocery workers in their labor dispute with the big three supermarket chains on Wednesday.

Jackson has supported Southland supermarket workers before during their 2003 strike. That cost supermarkets an estimated $1 billion. It cost thousands of striking workers four-and-a-half months pay.

Jackson and some union workers went into a Ralphs to talk to supermarket management. The biggest obstacle is health care.

"They need some good health care," said supermarket employee Atul Jariwala. "We need health care, not welfare. We don't have any good health care, we go to welfare. And if we go welfare, California is already broke."

Wages and health care are still on the table. Some of the people with Jackson were part of that strike eight years ago.

Ralphs employee Asenath Brim says she will walk out if she thinks it's necessary to get a contract. They've been without one since March.

"I don't know I can go through another one," said Brim. "I'm getting old now, this has been really devastating on my husband, he's going to have to take care of everything and it's not good."

Jackson met inside for a short time with management. He told Eyewitness News that Aug. 29 will either be a day of celebration over a new contract or, he hinted, a walkout.

"We're not seeking a strike we're seeking just working conditions and a livable wage," said Jackson. "People want to work and want to get paid for their work, and get benefits and health care for their work."

According to Ralphs Vice President of Marketing Kendra Doyle, the sticking point is health care.

"I believe that by asking the employees to pay $9 a week for single family coverage or $23 a week for full family coverage, and then the employees kicking in an additional significant amount of money to cover the healthcare costs that are rising for all of us, we should be able to reach a deal," said Doyle. [Note: Doyel contacted abc7.com to clarify her quote; She intended to say the employers, not the employees, would need to kick in an additional significant amount of money to cover the healthcare costs.]

Doyle says the supermarkets intend to stay at the negotiating table.

"We want to keep everyone at the table. Strike is not good for anyone- certainly not our community, our customers, our associates. So we want to stay at the table and get it done however long it takes."

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