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Southland's 'Big 3' grocery chains ready for possible strike

September 17, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Southern California's three leading supermarket chains are getting ready as grocery workers are on the verge of a strike.

Ralphs, Albertsons and Vons are laying plans in the event grocery workers decide to go on strike over stalled contract negations. The stores are taking a somewhat drastic stance.

If a strike does take place, Albertsons will close about 100 of its stores, Ralphs will close all of its stores and Vons intends to remain open.

A spokesperson for Ralphs said it is difficult to create a good shopping experience for customers and keep up a good working environment during a strike. The spokesperson also said it just doesn't make good business sense to stay open.

Supermarkets say if it does come to strike and they have to shut their doors, the pharmacies inside the stores will remain open.

A strike is not guaranteed for workers at Ralphs, Albertsons and Vons, but the Grocery Workers Union removed the final barrier to a strike by canceling their contract with the "Big 3."

The main sticking point between the grocery stores and the union has been health care benefits for workers.

Shoppers said they do understand the need to get good health care, but many don't believe now is the time to strike.

"Well, I'm not going to shop at Ralphs anymore because I don't think that's good for the workers or for us as shoppers," said Valencia resident Louena Forne.

"I think they're out of their minds for doing anything like this now. I'm going to get work. If they decide they don't want to do it, I'll do it. I'll continue to shop here anyway because this is where I live," said another Valencia resident Bill Nelson.

Grocery store workers have been preparing for a possible strike that could happen as early as Sunday night. At local union headquarters, members have been putting together picket signs and stockpiling food for the picket lines.

Both sides have said a strike is not ideal. Such an event would affect 62,000 Southern California workers in the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

A four-month strike and lockout that began in 2003 cost Ralphs and other grocery chains an estimated $2 billion.

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