Grocery Chain Workers Vote to Strike in Southern California

Grocery Cart (Chuck Coker / Flickr / CC)
Chuck Coker / Flickr / CC

On Monday, unionized grocery workers in San Diego County voted to authorize strikes against Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons to protest the latest wage offer from the supermarket food chains.

The offer reportedly stands to “drastically” impact workers’ take-home pay and deplete their health care coverage, the union claims. Pavilions and Safeway stores will also be affected.

Grocers are pushing back. “A strike authorization vote is premature and only serves to cause concern for associates and customers,” Ralphs spokeswoman Kendra Doyel told the local ABC affiliate in San Diego, 10News. “We encourage union leadership to return to the table on our agreed-upon upcoming dates and work out an agreement that is good for our associates and allows us to remain competitive in the market.”

The union contracts reportedly expired more than three months ago. Yet, as anticipation of a sweeping $15 minimum wage hike by 2020 makes its way across the Golden State — and the cost of health care coverage for workers increases — small and large businesses alike are scrambling to find ways to avoid layoffs.

Currently, the starting wage at the aforementioned chains is $10.10 an hour.

Although no date has yet been set for the planned walk out from the grocery chain retailers, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135 spokesperson Lori Kern told 10News that the deadline will be finalized once the strike has been voted on and approved by all chapters.

On Tuesday, several other chapters across Southern California will be voting on the issue at hand. Over 60,000 workers could be affected if the walkout takes place.

Some customers of the chains told 10News that part of their loyalty to the grocers is bound to the workers, who have become like family, vowing to take their business elsewhere if a walkout occurs.

However, others stated that while they will still do business with the grocers despite the dispute, going out of their way to do their shopping.

The last time a strike of this nature took place against Albertsons and Ralphs was the historic 141-day strike between 2003 and 2004.

During the presidential primary, “Democratic socialist” candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) gained the support of many unions due to his promises of higher wages and a single-payer healthcare system.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz