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Grocery Workers Join Picket Lines In Front Of 3 Ralphs Stores

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Picketers are outside three Ralphs supermarkets Wednesday, in what could be a preview of another grocery workers strike.

Grocery workers represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers 770 have been without a contract since March 6. A proposal for pension increases has been resolved, but workers are far from agreeing to management proposals to cut workers’ pay by 50 percent or more to maintain health care access.

“We can’t have 50 percent of our take-home pay taken away to pay for the premiums, and the deductibles and the co-pays,” says April Stein, who has worked as a clerk for 22 years. She was part of the picket line outside a Ralphs supermarket on Burbank and Van Nuys boulevards, KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports.

Wednesday afternoon, the three grocers released details on a new health care proposal. The new proposal has the three grocery stores increasing their contributions to the health care fund. The grocery stores still want employees to pay more for health care, but at amounts like $9 a week for single coverage and $23 a week for family coverage.

Grocery workers will vote next week on either a strike authorization or contract ratification.

“It’s all about being able to preserve middle-class jobs for people who work very hard in the stores,” Local 770 President Rick Icaza told KNX 1070.

If the Local 770’s 62,000 grocery workers walk out, it will affect an estimated 300 Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons stores.

In 2003, an estimated 70,000 grocery workers went on strike, affecting 900 stores throughout Southern California. The four-month strike sent about 75 percent of shoppers to competitors and cost the supermarkets an estimated $2 billion, according to the UFCW.

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