Southern California Union Grocery Clerks Vote To Approve Strike
Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers on Thursday voted to approve a strike, which could begin as early as Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reports (Cleeland, Los Angeles Times, 10/10). On Sunday, contract negotiations between the grocery store chains and the union, which covers about 70,000 grocery clerks, broke down over health care and pension benefits. The chains, including Albertsons, Kroger's Ralphs and Safeway's Vons, have proposed a plan that would require union members to begin paying part of the cost of their health coverage. In addition, the grocery stores' plan would require employees to pay as much as $75 for prescription drug coverage and end their dental and vision care benefits (California Healthline, 10/6). The sanction for the strike directs truck drivers, janitors, deli workers, refrigeration engineers and other union members who work in the grocery stores not to cross the picket line (Los Angeles Times, 10/10). Union officials said that the supermarket chains' proposals include "hefty increases" in employees' share of health care costs and are "across-the-board take-aways," the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Green, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/9). However, the grocery store chains want employees to take on more of the cost of health benefits because of a slow economy, rising health care costs and increased competition from rival chains -- including Wal-Mart Stores -- that employ nonunion workers, the AP/Fresno Bee reports. "As responsible companies, we are seeking nothing more than a fair contract that will help us to remain competitive in the face of soaring health care and benefit costs and increased competition from lower-cost operators," Ralphs President John Burgon said (AP/Fresno Bee, 10/9). Full results of the votes were scheduled to be released Friday morning, at which time union officials also are expected to announce when a strike could begin (Los Angeles Times, 10/10). Meanwhile, officials for the supermarket chains in Southern California and UFCW leaders have agreed to meet in federal mediation Friday (AP/Fresno Bee, 10/9).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.