Health Costs Fuel Grocery Workers’ Vote to Strike
United Food and Commercial Workers Union members employed by the grocery chain Albertsons on Sunday voted to give union leaders the authority to call a strike, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The three-year contract for workers at Albertsons, Vons and Ralphs is set to expire April 9 following two extensions reached this month. Because of prior agreements, the earliest date that Albertsons UFCW workers could strike is April 13, but union officials say that date is unlikely. Seven of the union's Southern California locals are locked in negotiations with all three stores over a new contract.
According to officials familiar with the negotiations, both sides are disputing the percentage of employer contributions to workers' health insurance (Hirsch/Chmielewski, Los Angeles Times, 3/26).
The union said it wants to eliminate a two-tier employee system that is in the current contract. Under the system, new employees have longer waiting periods to qualify for health care benefits and must pay a greater share of the cost.
The current contract with all three chains was the result of a 4.5-month strike and lockout in 2004. A new contract typically is renegotiated every three years (California Healthline, 3/7).