National labor council leaders gave San Diego grocery workers permission to go on strike, local leaders with the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council announced on Tuesday.
The AFL-CIO has sanctioned a possible strike. The United Food and Commercial Workers union is re-negotiating contracts with Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons stores in California. California grocery workers who belong to the union voted to authorize a strike last April.
This is the final phase in the process to go on strike, said San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council President Lorena Gonzales.
UFCW local 135 president Mickey Kaserian says no progress is being made.
"We are getting close to a potential labor dispute," said Kaserian.
The action would involve more than 10,000 supermarket employees in San Diego and 62,000 baggers, checkers and butchers across the state.
The last time workers grocery workers went on strike was in 2003.
“We're not asking for more; we're just asking to maintain,” said Denise Deleo.
Denise and Michael Deleo both work for a grocery store chain. Michael has worked there for 40 years.
The couple walked off the job before when a strike wiped out the savings of most workers and cost supermarkets $1.5 billion.
“We did it in 2003, fought for 139 days," Michael Deleo. We're going to do it again if we need to."
Memories of the strike were still fresh in the minds of shoppers at a Ralph's store, where sympathy for the workers was mixed.
“It would be bad for everyone," said one shopper. "They should come to some kind of agreement so they can help workers here."
“We're doing it for all workers, all workers are getting run over,” said Michael Deleo.
Miro Copic, a marketing professor at San Diego State, said a grocery story strike could hurt its chains long-term.
"They're going to lose customers to Kmart, to Wal-Mart, to Target, to independent stores," Copic said. "And they didn't get all the customers back last time."
But he says grocery workers could lose public support -- not to mention their positions.
"There are a lot of people who would like those 10,000 jobs," he said.