Thousands of Southern California grocery store workers have set a deadline to strike amid faltering negotiations with supermarkets over wage increases that workers say is necessary to afford living in the region.
On Sept. 9, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) have agreed to take a final vote on the offers from their big chain employers. If the workers reject the current offers, roughly 46,000 grocery employees could walk off the job at more than 500 stores in Central and Southern California.
The union announced its upcoming deadline after four days of intense negotiations that ended with no agreement.
Ralphs spokesperson John Votava told NBC 7 the possibility of a strike "creates unnecessary fear and stress for our associates. Our goal is to continue to negotiate a fair and balanced contract."
Though an agreement seemed to be a ways off as the union and its big chain employers said both sides were far from reaching a deal on pay increases.
UFCW President Todd Walters told NBC 7 that Kroger and Albertson's offered nickels in hourly wage increases -- less than what the union hoped.
In a statement from UFCW to its members, the union said, “We believe that one good job should be enough to provide for you and your families, your employers think that one more nickel should be enough.”
Ralphs released a statement Monday about the weekend negotiations. Part of it read:
“Most of our discussions centered around wages with several counter proposals taking place throughout the weekend; however, we remain far apart on wages. We are committed to higher wages. Our wage proposals offer more money than what was agreed upon and ratified in your 2016 agreement.”
To read the supermarket’s full statement, visit its website.
Another round of negotiations is set for Sept. 4 through Sept. 8. In the meantime, several informational pickets have been held outside local grocery stores by workers.
The union has been working toward a new contract with its supermarkets since March. If no deal is reached, it will be the first time in 15 years that grocery store workers went on strike in Southern California.