Schwarzenegger Offers To Take Role in Grocery Store Workers’ Strike Negotiations
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) in an interview on KNX Radio in Los Angeles on Monday said that he would be willing to serve as a mediator to resolve a strike and lockout of 70,000 union grocery clerks that centers mainly on health benefits, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Raine, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/4). "If they call me and ask me to intervene and to be an intermediary, I'm more than happy to do that. I think that we need to have everyone go back to work and normalize the situation," Schwarzenegger said (Chan, Sacramento Bee, 2/3). Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers who work at nearly 860 Albertsons, Kroger, and Safeway stores in Southern California have been on strike since October, largely because of a dispute over employees' health care costs. The grocery stores have sought a two-year wage freeze; a requirement that workers pay $780 in annual premiums for family health insurance; a cap on employer contributions to health benefits for workers, which would most likely lead to a decrease in coverage; and a second tier of wages and health benefits for new hires in which employer contributions to health benefits would total about $1,800 per worker per year, compared with about $5,000 per worker per year under the past contract. The UFCW has made two unsuccessful attempts to restart negotiations with the three companies. The union and the grocery store chains have tried resolving their differences through negotiations with a federal mediator, and an attempt at secret negotiations without a mediator failed last month (California Healthline, 1/23). Vince Sollitto, a spokesperson for Schwarzenegger, said that as of late Tuesday, none of the parties had requested Schwarzenegger's involvement. The UFCW had no official statement on the offer, according to the Chronicle. However, Rick Icaza, president of the UFCW Local 770 in Los Angeles, said, "I personally welcome the governor's offer and am ready to negotiate around the clock." The Chronicle reports that none of the grocery companies commented on Schwarzenegger's possible intervention (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/4).
KPCC's "Talk of the City" Tuesday interviewed Los Angeles Times reporter Nancy Cleeland about what could result from Schwarzenegger's possible involvement in strike negotiations (Felde, "Talk of the City," KPCC, 2/3). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer. In addition, KPBS' "KPBS News" Tuesday interviewed Kent Wong, director of the University of California-Los Angeles Center for Labor Research and Education, about the strikes (Lewis, "KPBS News," KPBS, 2/3). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
The UFCW on Tuesday was expected to offer to the grocery store companies a new proposal to end the strike, the Los Angeles Daily News reports (Grudin, Los Angeles Daily News, 2/3). Ellen Anreder, a spokesperson for many of the local unions involved in the strike, declined to provide details of the proposal, but she said that simultaneous announcements were planned in Bakersfield, Los Angeles and San Diego (Jacoby, North County Times, 2/3). In December, the grocers rejected a union proposal, and negotiations have not taken place since then. Meanwhile, as many as 5,000 UFCW members employed at 101 Southern California Food 4 Less stores may begin striking if a new contract is not in place when the current agreement expires Feb. 28, the Daily News reports. Food 4 Less stores are owned by Kroger, but employees have a separate union contract. No negotiations have taken place for a new contract. However, Icaza said the current Food 4 Less contract likely will be extended to focus on resolving the current strike (Los Angeles Daily News, 2/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.