Southern California Grocery Workers Reject Contract Deal

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Thousands of Southern California grocery workers have voted overwhelmingly to reject a health care proposal from major supermarket chains and authorize their union leaders to call a strike, a spokesman said Sunday.

KNX 1070’s John Brooks Reports

More than 90 percent of voters from the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, which has about 62,000 members, rejected the proposal from Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons stores.

The rejection automatically authorizes union officials to call a strike after 72 hours.

Shimpock said the union would not release precise numbers on how many voted, but said the turnout was “huge.”

The union will report the results to the dispute’s federal mediator on Monday and Shimpock said more talks would likely follow.

“We’re willing to come back to the table and stay there,” Shimpock said. “Our goal here is not to go on strike, we don’t want to go on strike, but unfortunately we’ve been pushed into a corner by these corporations.”

A four-month strike and lockout that began in 2003 cost Ralphs and other grocery chains an estimated $2 billion.

In a written statement Sunday, Vons stressed the fact that negotiations were ongoing.

“The employers intend to stay focused and engaged in the bargaining process,” the Vons release said. “We remain hopeful that we can peacefully reach a settlement that works for both sides. We would urge the union leadership to do the same.”

To prepare for a possible strike, Albertsons has started to advertise for temporary replacement workers to make sure its stores can stay open, chain spokesman Fred Muir said Sunday.

“Asking for strike authorization is a common tactic in negotiations and does not necessarily mean a strike will be called. Getting sidetracked by these tactics — especially when it is clear there is no complete contract offer on the table and because productive negotiations continue — will only delay our ability to reach a fair agreement for our associates,” Muir said. “The real work toward getting a fair contract will happen at the negotiating table and we hope that’s where the union leadership will focus its attention when we return to bargaining.”

Ralphs Grocery Co. spokeswoman Kendra Doyel previously told The Associated Press that her chain is committed to staying at the table to negotiate, and the grocers’ proposal was affordable and good for employees and their families.

Union members have been working without a contract since March.

Both sides announced last month that they had reached a tentative agreement on the employers’ contributions to pension benefits, but payments to the union health care trust fund have been a major sticking point.

Ralphs currently pays more than 90 percent of employee health coverage costs, Doyel said. Workers hired before 2004 pay nothing for health insurance while those hired later pay either $7 a week for single coverage or $15 a week for family coverage.

The companies’ proposal would raise that to $9 a week for singles and $23 a week for families. That is much lower than the average cost of health care insurance in California, she said.

But Shimpock said Sunday that the union is concerned about the long-term sustainability of the health care fund.

“With the amount they’re offering now, the fund would go bankrupt by next September,” he said. “We’re worried about increased costs, of course. But it doesn’t matter if premiums are $2 or $200 if the benefits are eventually eliminated.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • whazup

    let ’em strike. Go to markets that don’t promote unions and end this stranglehold on the American economy. I hope Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons close their doors and ALL these bums will be out of a job permanently.

    • Stryker 21

      Welcome to the real world. Everyone pays for insurance, another worthless union joining the ranks of school teachers and longshoremen.

    • Marine

      So yiou must be an employer who employes low wage poverty level humans.
      Typical of people like you who only think of themselves. If yoiu own a business I hope you go broke and into BK….

      • white liberal

        Temporary non-union workers will GLADLY replace the regular union member employees. If you regularly patronize ralphs, vons or albertsons, I encourage you to continually do so. Do not be afraid to cross picket lines!!

        In these lean economic times with very high unemployment rates, it enrages me that these unappreciative union workers would have the chutzpah to go out on strike!!!

    • James fernsale

      32 bucks a month? That’s nothing for healthcare, even 92 is reasonable. In this economy, they are lucky to have jobs. They aren’t rocket scientists but their union makes them feel irreplaceable. Well, we went through this before.

    • nomechifles

      I agree with you. Those workers should be thankfull they have a job. I have been unemployed for so long and strugling to find one, no health insurance, no income from anywhere.
      Lay them all off and hire the ones who really want to work.

      • Mo

        no health insurance, you say? And you would take one of these peoples jobs that are fighting to keep that same health insurance you feel is so important to mention. Did you hit your head recently?

      • Richard

        So this is America. Companies, sitting on huge surpluses of cash, decide to lay off thousands of people and then use the fear of being in the next wave of layoffs to double workloads, and THEN start chipping away at wages and benefits under the premise that “someone else will want it”. All good and fine, until it’s YOUR job on the line. Guess what someone younger, cheaper, and hungrier has already applied for it, and you will be left all alone with no one to stand by your side.

  • Dianne

    I’m paying $350 a month for insurance for me and my husband. Try paying that when you’ve been underemployed for the last three years. Their offer was $92 a month for family coverage. Sounds like a good deal to me. They should be grateful they even have jobs.

    • scarrillo

      Yeah but ad 50 cents to gas and you people go crazy….I didn’t work in this business for 11 years to lose my benefits….its not just 34 bucks….its 34 a week which adds to 134 a month…plus high deductible…I have 2 kids w asthma and a wife w epiilepsy …… All the union is asking to keep our plan the same and they profited 2 billion in the last 3 years and they can’t keep it the same?…just like I said there greedy just like these oil companies making billions bit raising cost…like I said if gas was raised $1 people would flip…your talking to raise mine 136 a week…trays food or one of my utility bills a month ….which is already a struggle….and I am greatful for my job…a job that has always taken care of my family….but wants to make it tougher when were already struggling while they’re highly profiting…no …its not right!.. were not even asking for a raise…its a joke.

      • Dianne

        My husband lost his job after 20 years in the construction industry. Guess what? He lost his benefits. Things are so bad that my kids are on Healthy Families insurance for $42 a month. Add that to the $350 for my husband and I and we are paying close to $500 a month in insurance. Our yearly deductible is high as well. We are literally living hand to mouth. You say the union wants to keep your plan the same. The cost of healthcare is increasing like everything else. So please, we all have our struggles and we have to do the best we can. You think its bad now, wait until Obamacare kicks in.

      • dan

        “Yeah but ad 50 cents to gas and you people go crazy….I didn’t work in this business for 11 years to lose my benefits….”

        I thought if you worked since 2004 you now pay nothing for your health insurance?!

      • Dianne

        Meant $400, not $500.

      • Duh!

        Scarrillo – apparently you are being fed misinformation. The article states that the proposal is for $23 per week which is roughly $92-$100 per month (some months have more days than others).

        It’s a joke that you do not want to pay your fair share for your health insurance. You treat it like it is an entitlement.

  • Norman

    I will not shop, repeat, I will “not” shop at any of the chains of Ralphs, Vons, Safeway, or Albertsons markets.
    My support will go to the union employees of those markets and I will shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joes. End of story!

    • bugman

      I’m 64 now and I have had health insurance from the companies I worked for,20-35$ is nothing a month,90$ for family is nothing for two working! I can”t find a job for a year now,thank god for V A which I never used till this year for my medical. And I am a Vietnam vet.Never used the system like so many people do now for getting money for nothing………….

    • jj

      I loved the last strike. We were gettting double and triple coupons. We are looking forward to it again.

      Maybe if the unions were so greedy I would support them.

      Come on $32 is nothing for healthcare

    • Patrick

      Norman, Glad you can afford to shop at those overpriced stores. You must be a union member. If you are not, you are just a sucker who had bought into the pervasive attitude of many of us American slobs. “pWhat have you done foe me lately”.

      • marine

        patric……I have never expected anything from you or anybody else. the only thing i expected was to either die for my country which luckily while in the marine corps during the early 1960’s I did’nt have to go to Vietnam , my pension. and social security…that they do owe me….as far as the Vietnam war goes, just think 58,000 dead and on a wall in Washington DC, and for what?
        I love unions and will always support them, they are the backbone of this country…”.power to the unions.”

      • DH

        @marine. “power to the unions”.

        Ever hear of a country called Greece?

  • JJ

    The offer is $36 a month or $92/mo for a family and they are upset. I pay over $400/mo for coverage. Greedy unions. If they want to help the workers lower the union dues to offset the increase.

    • ed

      GD!. I’m self employed and I pay 1,605 per month for my family of 4 and these idiots are strikign for 36 dollars or 92 dollars for single or family coverage! OMG. This is precisely the problem with this country. Greedy union thugs. Unions need to be busted. Period. I hope they strike and all of these lazy aholes lose their jobs. I will certainly cross those union lines. I have a family of 4 to feed and I could care less about these greedy jerks. MAN UP people. Many of you make over 50K per year and your complaining about a measly 93 bucks per month! Try paying 14,000 per year in medical coverage. You should be thankful that you even have jobs in this economy. If I needed my job they way some of these people claim they do, I would be very careful. They may have just cut their nose to spite their face. Pigs get fat but hogs get slaughtered. Wake people. You should decertify your worthless uni on and go back to work and thank God everyday that you even have jobs with a 9.2 unemployment rate. Worthless and lazy!

      • sacarrillo

        And do u only make 18,000 a year???…no I think not right…only looking at the small picture right?

      • Jason

        I was just curious about people’s feelings on this matter & I ran across ed’s comments. He starts off by using God’s name in vain twice & then continues to use such words as aholes, thugs, jerks and the like(God forgive us). I just wanted him to know that I love him & am praying for him. Also, with all due respect, I do thank God everyday for His son Jesus, my wife & my family along with many other blessings in life. I pray that we can all love as Jesus loved us & that ed can start praying the same thing. I am an Albertsons employee that wants God’s will to be done in all things. Thank you for all of your input on this matter.

      • TT

        @Ed – those arent the ones getting taken advantage of because of this situation- its the stockers,cashiers, etc- service people that only work part time because thats all their allowed AND pay unions dues…..8 dollars an hours doesnt add up to much when its part time, you take out union dues, and health care – its just my opinion – but i think they would be better off dealing with the employer themselves and not paying out a bunch of union fees – they cant afford that to begin with ….8 dollars and hour at about 20 to 35 ours a week doesnt add up to much – take out union dues and health care – not much left…..I dont like this situation, but the employers should at least give them enough hours and/or pay them enough to bring something home to their families….

  • Joe

    $36 for single and $92 for a family monthly insurance premium? That’s rate is very common among regular workers that I know. My wife even pays more than $100 per month on our insurance.

    As profit margin thins out in a very competitive market, employers seemed to always ask its employees to take on some of the financial burden of insurance. On hard times, like we are now, the chopping block on company expenditure is bloody.

    I am wondering how much are the employees willing to shoulder on the insurance premium? Is it the same as the rest of the job market?

  • KJ

    Unfortunately, they don’t tell you how much these workers actually PAY WHEN THEY GET MEDICAL CARE – which is an outrageous amount – therein lies the crux of the matter. AND, some don’t make but barely over minimum wage.

  • Mark

    If these greedy unions get what they want you know who will have to pay for it…

    • Gina

      Hmmm… if the unions get what they want isn’t it obvious that the employers will have to pay for it. I’d rather the employers than HEALTHY FAMILIES or WELFARE. And believe me we are already paying for these costs. Really these union members are fighting for more than just their benefits, their fighting for the benefit of all American jobs. The less support they get the less value we will have as employees. And I guess that is what some of us here feel that we are worth. Minimum wage jobs and no health care. Come on people.

      • Gina

        Ok Ron, I understand you don’t like the union. No one asked you to like them. I feel they are a waste of resources that should have been spared by fair employers. BUT for the majority of employers in the US it isn’t about fairness, it’s about the bottom dollar. And when we let these employers decide what is fair for our workfoce we end up with the walmart brand workforce; reduced value = reduced quality. =)

      • Ron

        Gina, YOU and other UNION members sound like little kids. You don’t understand REAL world economics or REAL life. You must have been given your job and YOU must NOT have been required to interview for any other jobs. In the REAL world employers CREATE the jobs and they decide WHO works for them and how much they are WILLING to pay for THAT job. But YOUR NAIVETY and YOUR union have prevented you from learning that REAL world EXPERIENCE. But when YOU LOSE your job, YOU WILL learn the HARD way, how it works in the REAL world.

        1 of 2.2 MILLION UNEMPLOYED. You, CHILD WILL find out that YOU DON’T tell the EMPLOYER what he/she will PAY YOU !!!

      • Ron

        Gina, you sound like a union employee or relative of one. Did the union tell you and your families that when you lose your job, you can join the 2.2 MILLION Californian’s that are UNEMPLOYED and eventually you will be 1 of the 502,000 STILL UNEMPLOYED that have EXHAUSTED your 99 weeks of unemployment benefits and still NO JOB or healthcare.

        Sleep well tonight and THINK about those numbers, since the union DOESN’T bother to TELL you about that. But your union BOSSES will still have THEIR JOBS and BENEFITS !!!

  • chevymaster

    It is amazing that the grocery workers will strike in this environment or any environment. Americn workers have this sense of you owe me and why should I pay for more of my benefits. Come on $92.00 a month for family coverage. I pay $550.00 a month for my Family Health Care Plan.

    Why do you think there are very few if any full-time union market employees.
    Blame your union for this. You think your union bosses care about you. All they care about is getting their big fat salaries. When you go on strike do the union bosses stop getting their pay checks, “NO”.

    You will also lose customers because the markets will increase the cost of food and non-food items. I rarely shop at Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons anymore.
    The only time I stop in is when I need something quick, other than that I shop elsewhere. Food is much more expensive at the three mentioned. If you “Strike”
    I will no longer step into either of the three.

    I worked for Safeway back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I was full- time and because of the union I eventually was knocked down to part-time. The best thing I ever did was quitting and removing myself completely away from a union.

  • Igor Doublebubblevich.


    • Igor Is A Moron

      And, the idiot of the day award for making a comment not related to the article goes to…..

      • roger

        Actually, it is related, he was in town getting publicity the other day under the guise of supporting grocery workers.

      • Igor Doublebubblevich.

        2003 the wimpy union called on the chicago preacher just as the other day, they flew old jessie out here again, seems he should be here stopping the blacks from robbing jewerly/convenient stores daily, out of control.

  • chris

    If they do not like the job or the terms of the contract, they are free to leave and find something else. You can no longer be a simple cashier and buy a house anymore. Those times are long gone. Many people are out of work period and have no chance at health insurance. Keep threatening strike etc and watch. Illegals and people who speak little English will take your places, for good.

  • Nameless

    If you paid everyone worldwide a fair wage then the people could pay for their own health insurance. This is beyond grocery workers striking. This is an attack against union/people organizing. Corporations and Big Government want wage slaves and welfare slaves respectfully. As long as someone is willing to work for two dollars a week anywhere in the world this inequailty will continue. I say worldwide boycott of Big Corporations Big Government and lets march for true human freedom peace and prosperity, because until we are ready to sacrifice for that, war, poverty, debt and wage slavery will continue. Peace.

    • Ron

      BUST ALL UNIONS. Support only NON-UNION stores and businesses. It will improve all business and government efficiencies plus it WILL decrease prices.

    • MD

      You’ve been drinking too much Kool-Aid.

      • ed

        Exactly! here here! MD Namesless is certainly smoking AND drinking something.

  • Bill

    When there is a strike I make sure that the struck stores are the ones I shop at. I’ll do any thing I can do to break union’s strangle hold on America.

  • Reality

    I pay over $500 for HMO coverage for my spouse and me. And no job security.
    The unions and strikers get no sympathy from me. Include me as one of the shoppers that’ll support the retailer.
    If we don’t support the retailer, they’ll simply close and move on – only to be replaced with some “ranch market”.

  • Right Turn

    Wish I could get coverage for $36/mo. When I was laid off, I was paying $135/mo. to keep healthcare. There’s one problem here: unions

    Let them strike. I love the discounts and deals that follow. Believe me. I won’t feel bad crossing lines to get my food.

    @Norman–You go ahead and shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joes Mr. Money with their overpriced food. I shop and eat just as healthy from Ralphs or Food 4 Less (who is by the way owned by Ralphs).

    • Richard

      You are insane to compare Trader Joe’s and Von’s prices. I worked for Von’s for 12 years and Trader Joe’s for 3, and the prices are no comparison: Trader Joe’s has better prices by a landslide. Without a “card”. Or “sales”. Get your facts straight, such as follows;

      2% milk, gallon – $2.99 TJs
      $3.99 Vons
      Jumbo dz eggs – $1.69 TJs
      $3.59 Vons
      Check and go to TJs if you don’t believe, I stand by my statement.

      • TT

        @ Richard :) Hey thanks 4 the info on that one – gonna look a little closer next time im in there …..

  • marine

    hey chevymaster, you are being ripped off. besides I don’t believe you. please print out your policy and I also want to see your birth certificate.

    hey doubble.. are you living down by the LA River? I think I saw you in Ralphs shoplifting stuff with your buddies who don’t like to work, ya lazy bum.

    • roger

      I’m sure some other blogger will go to the effort of printing out their policy and sending that, along with their birth certificate, to you.

  • No Sense

    If these people can’t put aside $36/mo. as a single or $92/mo as a family for a priority like health coverage, I would say they have their financial priorities in the wrong place. Sounds like a personal budgeting issue to me.

  • Chris French

    STRIKE STRIKE STRIUKE! You think there is no shortage of people that will gladly take your job – think again. I was paying $150.00 a PAYCHECK for married and spouse coveage, before we lost healthcare or faced lay-offs. We as employees stoof with each other and didn’t expect anybody else to pad our wallets. The unions stranglehold is coming to an end don’t you people read or watch news. Strike and you’re going to be getting even less, who are you going to cry for when that happens, want to blame somebody look in the mirror, look at you union card. I refuse to shop union markets anyway, go Stater Brothers and Vallarta Market.

    • Jane

      Fresh & Easy is awesome!

      • Ron

        @Jane: Yes it is, as is Trader Joes, Target, Walmart and ANY NON-UNION store !!

  • Patrick

    Marine, m comment was to Norman. You are talking to someone who volunteers 20+ hours a week at the VA which includes driving disabled vets. My uncle died thanks to DOW. I hope you don’t have any injuries that they do.I hang a flag outside my house. I vote. I pay taxes. I pay into Social Security that I will never see in retirement. Unions are not the backbone of this country. The working man is the backbone of this country. The unions just break the backbone of this country.

    • roger

      Anxious to see if Marine can respond with anything other than insults.

    • MD

      Well said.

      • ed


  • jenn8a90808

    Every American worker is expendable. I’m of the mindset that now is not the time for anyone to be striking, jobs are scarce and most non union folks don’t take them for granted. I’ll cross the picket lines to shop…the deals and triples coupons made it worth while.

  • roger

    I don’t think they should strike, but I’ll honor their picket lines. What if it was you that requested employment support? Would you appreciate these comments?

    I’ll stand by for the insults, go ahead with the name-calling, folks!

  • Joe Bob

    How much of a bonus did the CEO take home last year? READ:

    NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- Safeway Inc. (SWY) Chief Executive Steven Burd received a slight increase in his total pay in 2010, which reached close to $11 million as his cash bonus nearly doubled, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

    So before we go burning the workers at the stake for asking very little of the bump to make their insurance work, they already had their pay cut after the last contract and combine that with everything else the economy is dishing out, plus the greedy CEO and to me they’ve got an excellent reason for a picket line!

    • Replacement

      Hey Joe Bob – It’s time to brush up the math skills before you use sensational headlines. Take that executive pay and divide by hours worked by all other employees, you’ll see that on a per-employee basis it’s miniscule, It pales in comparison to the cost of union dues alone, let alone medical benefits paid the company… which you should have quoted too.

      • Joe Bob

        So are you saying that the CEO, the CFO and all other directors on the board are worth their multi million dollar bonus’s and the employees that make sure things run smoothly aren’t worth a fair wage and healthcare?

        Since I’m a victim of public education (where I experienced complacent union teachers) you do the math and present the figures, apparently I is too ignorant and can only copy sensational headlines. C’mon replacement, X number of workers multiplied by 90% cost of coverage is <= executive bonuses, right? That's the equation you should have posted.

  • Niecee

    As a grocery worker, we agree, the raise in our premiums are VERY fair. Even for a part time employee (24 hours a week guaranteed) with minimum wage pay. But they have offered no pay raise to offset the raise in medical. The companies are currently paying $3.47 @ hour for our health care which is far less than the current cost of the plan. They need to pay a additional $1.20 per hour to adequately fund the plan, but they are only offering .65 cents. This is far below what they pay for the teamsters health care (over $7.00 per hour) and what they pay for Northern California (over $6.00). In fact, the amount these employers are paying for health care today is far less then they paid 10 years ago. If the trust fund runs out of money, it will not be able to pay our medical bills and will come out of our pockets %100. We just want adequate funding. If we had voted yes to the contract, we would get no wage increase, health benefits are at risk and we would never get an opportunity to see a better offer.

    • Blake

      You clearly have not shopped medical coverage lately. The employer is clearly taking the brunt of the increases and only asking to to share a token amount. Immoral that you’ll strike over an unreasonable expectation of immunity from the reality of increased health costs that we all face. Think about it, didn’t your paycheck shrink when gas prices went up? Or when food prices increased. I know the rest of America’s did. Are you expecting your employer to protect you from gas and food cost increases too??
      Cry me a river.

    • MD

      Sorry, no sympathy here. Overall, you are still doing much better than most people.

  • jim

    I pay much more for insurance than $92.00 get rid of the union they are killing the country. Shop non union.

  • jim

    It is ridiculous for these union to be rejecting these offers 9 bucks a week. I was having to pay 150 every two weeks 300 a month. part time. Go on strike. IJust like the teachers union they are self serving and are willing to pass on the cost to the consumer. no wonder I do most of my shopping elsewhere. What so difficult about working as a bagger or a checker. they are over paid.

  • Southern California Grocery Workers Reject Contract Deal | Los Angeles for Me

    […] Thousands of Southern California grocery workers have voted overwhelmingly to reject a health care proposal from major supermarket chains and authorize their union leaders to call a strike, a spokesman said Sunday. More from:; […]

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