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Union leaders say no grocery strike this week

August 22, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Union leaders announced on Monday that there will be no supermarket strike this week. The union and representatives of Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons stores have agreed to go back to the bargaining table next Monday.

Negotiators for the grocery workers union and the major supermarket chains are set to go back to the bargaining table next Monday, as directed by a federal mediator.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 supermarket workers voted by more than 90 percent to authorize a strike. There are 63,000 union employees. The union did not say how many actually voted.

The last supermarket workers strike in 2003 cost supermarkets an estimated $1 billion and cost some striking workers their homes, according to the union.

In the years since the 2003 strike, supermarkets have seen their share of the market plunge from 80 percent to 40 percent.

A major sticking point now is how much workers will have to pay for healthcare.

"I voted to strike because I really care about my healthcare, and I depend on my healthcare for me and my daughter, because I'm not willing to depend on taxpayers to pay for my healthcare. I want to do it on my own," said Cynthia Brambila, who has a 5-year-old daughter.

There are seven United Food and Commercial Workers local unions involved, according to the UFCW. The unions and the supermarkets were called back into negotiations for next Monday. Healthcare is still on the table. Wages have yet to be discussed.

"We were hopeful that the strike vote would cause the employers to come back to the table and bargain in good faith. We hope that will happen. If it doesn't, we're prepared to issue a 72-hour notice to strike," said UFCW Local 770 President Rick Icaza.

The union says the supermarkets are offering 65 cents an hour for healthcare. They say that would break the healthcare fund in 16 months. They want a $1.20 per hour for healthcare.

Ralphs spokesperson Kendra Doyel says their proposal would keep the health plan going for three years.

"If you look at $354 million, that we would put into the fund over the next three years, that does put a reserve into that fund, which is even longer than most trust funds across the country would have in place," said Doyel.

Pavilions employee Tom Hancock spent four and a half months on strike the last time. He's reluctantly willing to do it again.

"It's a war. It's a fight and you lose something whenever you go to war," said Hancock.

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