San Diego grocery store workers voted in favor of authorizing a strike, inching them closer to the picket lines if negotiations with Southern California Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons fall through, the local union said late Tuesday.
Local 135 United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) said 97 percent of their members agreed to give strike authorization, meaning if contract negotiations with grocery companies fall through, union leaders have the power to call a strike for thousands of members. The vote doesn't mean grocery store workers are necessarily hitting the picket lines this week.
UFCW unions in the Los Angeles area announced Wednesday that it's members had also voted to approve a strike authorization.
The voting for all Southern California workers was conducted Monday and Tuesday of this week. Exact tallies of the votes were not immediately released.
The contract between the union and the companies expired in March. Todd Walters, president of the local UFCW chapter, says Albertsons, Vons and Ralphs employees primarily want higher wages and to keep their health care coverage strong.
“All of our members have access to good, cheap, inexpensive health care, and they deserve that,” Walters said.
In a statement earlier this week, Albertsons, which owns Vons, said, “We are committed to working collaboratively with the unions to ensure that we reach an agreement that is fair to our employees, good for our customers and allows Albertsons Vons and Pavilions to remain competitive in the Southern California market.
A previous statement from Ralphs said in part: "As we have stated from the very beginning of negotiations, we are committed to providing good stable jobs and competitive pay and benefits for our associates. We also need to keep our stores competitive in this changing retail environment."
Fresh memories of the 2003 grocery worker strike, when tens of thousands of grocery store workers marched for better benefits for about five months, are another reason a strike could be a last resort option.
“None of us want to go through it again, but if we have to we're willing to go through it again. And I know our community will support us in that,” said Esther Lopez a 30-year Ralph's employee.
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