Clock Ticks Toward Possible Southland Grocery Strike

LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — A union representing workers at three major grocery chains in Southern California is distributing picket signs as the clock ticks toward the end of a 3-day notice period required before calling a strike.

KNX 1070’s Ed Mertz Talks To Union Official

Union negotiators intend to keep talking if a resolution appears to be in sight when the period ends at 7:10 p.m. Sunday. They also stress that members could continue working beyond that time.

But if little progress is made toward settling disagreements over health benefits, negotiators say they will tell members to walk off the job.

Some 62,000 grocery workers have been working at Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons stores without a contract since March.

“I know it’s over health benefits and I just hope the come to a resolution by then,” Jesse Nerio, a customer, told CBS2.

Nerio said he’s already looked at other options for getting food.

“I’ll look for somewhere else because I want to support the workers with their health care needs,” Felipe Caceres, another shopper, said.

Back in 2003 and 2004, workers took to the picket lines. Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar hopes this time will be different.

On Saturday, Huizar delivered a letter to a manager at a Vons store in Eagle Rock to pass on to the CEO of the company urging the two sides to come to an agreement.

“We’re trying to avert a strike,” Huizar told the manager. “You know, it could happen Sunday and everyone suffered – the consumers, the local economy, the workers.”

Representatives for the supermarkets say they are disappointed that the unions voted to possibly strike but remain committed to reaching an agreement.

» Stores May Close Their Doors If Grocery Workers Strike
» Grocery Workers Could Strike As Early As Sunday Night

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • ochector

    What a poorly written article. If the big item is health care, how about some real numbers instead of generalizations? How much does each employee pay now, and how much is each employee expected to pay with the proposed increase each month?

    • Seaman

      I agree it would be nice to have facts and figures. Here are statistics for the average employee and employer contributions toward health care plans in CA in 2010: (employee contributions on average in California are about $20/week for individual and $80/week for family).

      For grocery employees the following are the figures I found: Ralph’s employees hired before 2004 currently pay nothing toward their health care. Employees hired after 2004 pay $7/week for individual coverage and $15/week for family. The proposed increase to the employees is $2/week for individual and $8/week for family.

      • Crowsfeet

        Don’t forget…these plans all have stop-gap coverage meaning if you pay $20 a week plus 25% of all costs, that amount would cap out if you had a major bill like the $23K “Accident” Cynthia refers to above (i.e., if the plan pays 75% to a stop gap of $5000, then $5000 would be the most this person will have to pay out of pocket for the whole year) This is the primary purpose of INSURANCE. To help protect from a catastrophic loss. However, nobody on the union side has mentioned these limits. Union workers act like they are being forced to work for slave wages and sub-standard insurance when in fact they have some of the best benefits provided to workers in Califonia. Go ahead and strike fools, you are all easily replaced!

      • Seaman

        Also, just a couple more statistics for folks to consider. If I remember correctly in California the averager Employer Contribution toward health care is 72% while the Employee Contribution is 28%. Ralph’s contributes 90% and the grocery employee’s contribute 10%. The average cost of premiums for an employer sponsered healthcare plan is over $13,000/year.

      • Seaman

        Crowsfeet, Thanks for the additional info. Would be nice to see the journalists doing their job and reporting on the facts and figures from both the Union and the Grocers. Not sure what they teach in journalism school these days. Only took me a couple minutes to find the statistics for employer sponsored healthcare plan premiums. Would it be too much to expect the news media to report the facts?

      • Seaman

        Ochector, I tried to find out what the specifics of the Grocery Workers Healthcare Plan includes and also what the Union dues are (you would think I would remember since I used to be an Albertson’s cashier). I wonder if they are on an 80/20 split or a 75/25. Could be in the case above the medical service was out of network so was 75/25? Unfortunately, if you or any member of your family gets a catastrophic illness you will be in massive debt no matter what healthcare plan you are on or who you work for (including the changes in the new Healthcare Plan the President signed in to law). The cost for all healthcare premiums no matter who you work for are going to continue to go up as insurance companies are no longer allowed to refuse coverage for pre-existing conditions and healthcare costs go up. Personally, there is no way I would have voted to strike in this economy over the small increases in the employee contribution that I have seen. Maybe there is alot more to it but I sure have not seen any details forthcoming from the Union side.

      • ochector

        Thanks Seaman. So basically it’s BS they’re calling a strike for very little increase. I’m willing to bet the cost to the companies is much higher than $2 and $8 per week.

        That is extremely low insurance rates even if they are part-time workers. I mean, come on, it’s your health it’s got to be worth something to you. You take your car into the shop and can easily spend $500 in one month for it.

        @Cynthia way above. Those figures sound way out of line. I’m guessing the employee you spoke with (if this is a real story) was just trying to get your sympathy and exaggerate. Most of what I’ve heard is the monthly premiums are pretty low compared to a lot of what people are paying on their jobs these days especially with the new requirements Obamcare has implemented. Costs are increasing easily by 30% or more.

    • ochector

      It’d also be interesting to know how much members pay for their union dues. When the union increases their member’s dues, where’s the cries of hardship?! LOL

    • Cynthia

      I just asked one of them, they have children and are paying $42/mo insurance plus 25% deductible of the medical cost. They want to increase the cost to 50%. Currently the persons child had a $23,000 accident 2 mo’s ago and she’s been billed 25%. This is the approx current for a family $42/mo + 25% of any bills and from what it sounds like is the grocery stores want to DOUBLE this. If it was me I’d strike too.
      In the meantime I tried to stock up yesterday on the Ralphs brands we use like the water and dog food – because my dog does well on their food but I could only get 4 boxes and it’s not going to last but a few weeks so I really hope this doesn’t happen. We don’t even have another grocery store in our city other than Trader Joe’s. AAARGH!

      • frank

        most HMO’s are 80/20 , sounds like the UNION RUN healthplan is 75/25, maybe the union members should vote to stop the current plan and get their own insurance like the rest of us do, btw Kirkland dogfood from Costco is healthier and cheaper for your dog than Ralphs, Albertsons or Safeway/Vons

    • shelley

      We would be paying over a hundred dollars a month, which is fine. The only problem is that noone is telling anyone that we are only guarentted twenty hours a week. We are not full time. We are not even asking for a raise. This would be almost impossible to pay. Maybe we could just go on welfare and use county health care. That is what it is coming to. Maybe it would be nice if someone would cut the welfare system.

      • crowsfeet

        Go ahead and GO ON WELFARE if you think that will help your cause. All it really does is PROVE to everyone here just how lazy you and all these greedy crybabys are. Did you think your threat would make us all write a letter on your behalf? Wake up to reality! If you are only guaranteed 20-hours a week and can’t afford to pay your bills, then perhaps it is time to find a new profession or go back to school and learn a ‘SKILLED TRADE” that would afford you the opportunity to pay your own way (it might even be gratifying to know that niether the UNIONS or WELFARE are paying for your perceived entitlements). I pity your children, thats no way to learn how to provide!!!

    • elaine

      they pay nothing now and the max is $23.00 a week for a family of 4 I wish I could pay that. Oh and Stater brother is the same union Jack Brown just signs a swee heart deal since he is smaller than the rest of the companys. So shopping at Staters is crossing the picket line.

  • ginny

    The cost of health care benefits is going up higher and higher evry year. Since the employer already pays the majority of it, they also reach a point where they have to pass some of that increase to the employees. It sounds like what they are asking is a minimal increase. When is the union going to realize that everyone needs to be part of carrying the load. You want the benefits, be willing to shoulder some of the increases.

    • Thomas

      What the union didn’t realize in the 2003 strike is that all these companies (Vons, Ralphs, etc) belong to much larger corporations. When I worked for Ralphs, in the 80s and 90s, the stores were locally owned companies and they would always give in to most of the demands because they couldn’t afford a strike.

      Now, as evident in 2003, the companies lost some money, but it was small compared to the overall balance sheet of the corporation. These are not locally owned companies any more.

      Why do you think that Ralphs can afford to close all its stores and Albertson’s most of their stores. Vons will quickly follow suit. The store employees need to read their contract. If any store is closed for more than 30 days, the company can re-open that store as a non-union shop. So, do you want your $17.00 an hour and pay some healthcare? Or do you want $8.50 an hour and pay a whole lot more healthcare?

  • Thomas

    Thank you. Does “half a salary” to healthcare mean the person working 8 hours a week? Then yes, I could see the numbers that way. Since day one of all this media hype, not one concrete number has been put out by the union to support their cause. Even the workers in the stores don’t know the numbers. If you go to Local 770’s website, there is no mention of numbers and in fact, the current contract is only available to members only. Why not make your contract public so everyone can see. As a former 770 member who left 18 years ago (thank GOD), I know they are getting an excellent package. Top scale cashiers and food clerks, which is almost everyone you have seen at your store for over 2 years, is making $17.90 to slide boxes over a piece of glass. The other problem is Rick Icaza is still their union president. Maybe time for some new blood. I know I never trusted him when I was in that union. All he ever mentioned was going on strike. Remeber members, he will still get paid, but not you.

    • Eric

      The Average American’s Pay is $19.90.

      • stspecialk

        eric, you know that that includes jobs that require degrees and specified training, right?

    • ochector

      Indeed, the Union boss says it’s “half” like he has no motivation to lie and attempt to sway the public opinion in their favor. My understanding is it’s a really a low increase or the overall cost to the employee is quite low compared to the rest of us and I read an article looking for the facts, but today facts are not presented, just generalizations.

    • shelley

      The only people making that wage are the people that have all the years in. The people from last contract make about ten dollars, and also takes them five years to get to top pay. So you most be misinformed. Try taking to someone that knows the facts

  • Grocery Workers, Stores Prepare For Possible Strike | Los Angeles for Me

    […] From San Diego to San Luis Obispo, 62,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union are prepared to walk off the job if their demands are not met. More from:… […]

  • mojo

    Bull$hit, They are NOT trying to avoid a strike. They WANT to strike to show everyone how they can bring the companies AND the people of the effected communities to their knees. I say don’t ever shop at any of the stores ever again. Go to other stores that don’t have unions. The prices are cheaper and the workers are more friendly

    • bugman

      I totally agree with you, I have been out of work for a year! I will gladly stand in line for a JOB!!!!Never Deal t with a union, I paid my medical insurance and I did not cry for a lot of years with the companies I worked for.Simply put.crybabies

      • Marconi Darwin

        Hey bugman, a union worker has a job. You do not. Maybe the union is doing something for him.

        Just a thought as you race to the bottom

  • Lucy

    They should be happy with the fact that they have a job with benefits… greedy..

  • Hardmoney

    Please, please give the workers anything they want, and just raise my grocery bill to pay for it. I don’t care how much it costs me, so long as clerks at the store are happy. Double my food cost if necessary, i don’t care if old people have to cut down on how much they eat, or if they have to switch over to Kibbles & Bits, so long the union members don’t have pay $ 587 a month for Kaiser health insurance, like I do. Or, the 9 bucks they are being asked to pay.

  • Mark

    The ones who benefit the most from a Union are the leaders of a Union.

    • elaine

      I agree get rid of the unions all together here in California we have enough lawyers to make sure you are treated fairly. I f you got rid of the union dues that would cover your insurance right there.

  • brandon


    • wgaf

      Tell your god to start paying all my bills then it would be okay with me for the workers to get a raise, DUMBAS$.

    • stspecialk

      I will gladly take their job without any concessions.

  • Eric

    5 Day work weeks, 8 hour days, Overtime, PPO Healthcare, Child Labor Laws…ALL BECAUSE WE HAVE UNIONS AGAINST LARGE BUSINESS PRACTICES. Got Bless the American Worker and The Families of the Downtrodden.

    • stspecialk

      Your union lost my respect when they have refused to stand with public worker’s unions that have lost thousands of jobs and had salaries cut every year for the past 4.

    • ochector

      Sure they had a time and place. But now look at what they’ve done. Bankrupted most of the US car companies, many businesses are out of business because of the unions, they are bankrupting the US Postal Service and are bankrupting government at all levels.

      They went from reasonable requests to benefits now that are ludicrous. Please, CA state prison guards get 8 weeks paid vacation their first year, really? Most of the police and fire seem to be able to spike their pensions by working massive hours of overtime their last year and rolling over their sick and vacation pay. Really? The good union argument is way over.

  • eddie

    work union, live better? Yea right, work union, keep working to pay the union dues and the nice salaries at the top. I think it’s time the grocer’s exit the union and hire others who are reasonable.

    • Sage Advice

      Exactly, 100% – and don’t forget it merely raises prices to the point where the unionized stores simply can’t compete anymore with the independents, which have been getting better and better due to all the hassle these unions have made for stores likes Ralphs and Vons over the past decade. Want to bet that this causes another hit? How long before these union-morons realize they are supporting a fat-cat Jackie Presser style leadership that could not care less if these idiots at the bottom have nowhere to go when these union-stores are forced to close down?

      Then, none of these people will have jobs; the independents (which operate cleaner, with better produce and meats, and have MUCH better customer service) will bring in their own work force and avoid these hacks in trying to prevent these losers from black-mailing their outfits into unionization.


  • swhitS

    May Day 2011, Downtown Los Angeles
    Illegals marching hand in hand with the SEIU wearing red shirts, waving red flags and banners saying “support communism”.
    Any questions what the unions are doing?

  • CarmaDogma

    Okay, so Huizar delivered a letter to the store manager to pass along to the CEO urging the two to come to an agreement. Can we presume that he did not write a similar letter to the CEO of the union? We know what side he is on. This is why we have a problem with unions.

  • Tina

    Here are the numbers for pre 2004 clerks. Union dues are $668 a year. No monthly fee for medical. With United Health HMO the office visit is a $25 copay. Emergency room is $100 copay. Vision is $150 allowance. Dental is 2 free cleanings and once yearly xrays. For any other work such as fillings, crown or root canal there is a $50 deductable and a percentage for the procedure done. Prescriptions start at $5 for generic and go up from there. With the last contract the pre 2004 people were left with what they previously had, which is listed above. All the new charges were for the new hires. I don’t know if they are going to leave the pre 2004 employees as they are or change them too. The new offers from the employers are to eliminated HMO’s, limit the PPO’s and the doctors one can see. Raise the monthy medical fee and raise the deductibles. If you an ill person you would not be able to afford the deductibles. They also want to eliminate Sunday pay for clerk’s helpers and increase the time they work as an apprentice. I don’t see any positives for the employees, it is only take-aways. Maybe a little raise to offset the icrease in fees and more people wouldn’t have such a problem ithe all the increass.

    • stspecialk

      In today’s economy, I would gladly do the job for less.

    • ochector

      Thanks for the info. $0 in monthly premiums is pretty damn generous. How many of us have that? There has to be some give, there is too much competition and the healthcare costs are increasing too much for these workers and their union to believe they can have a sweet plan like that. I pay $200+ per month for a family plan and consider that pretty cheap compared to some of the plans I’ve been exposed to under some employers.

      • Dan Gidez

        Medicare with Part D runs me over $300 a month for myself, how is it that a disabled person with a fixed income has to pay more than a unionized grocery worker.

  • Tina

    These negotiations also affect the thousands of retired retail clerk workers. Their medical will be affected also. Their fees will increase along with their deductibles. I am sure most retirees are on fixed incomes and they don’t get to vote on whether to strike or not. There is a whole lot more to what is going on than just raising the monthly fees to $9 and $23 a month.

    • Tina

      I meant $9 and $23 a week.

  • Sage Advice

    This time around it will backfire on these workers. Anyone can do these jobs, and these should NOT be union jobs – there is no specialized skill or necessary smarts to run cashiers and bag groceries. Their deal is not bad at all, and they are complaining in the face of an advantage. Yes, in this economy you had better give up a little bit, as when the store closes due to losses – well, guess what? – you won’t have a job AT ALL! The village idiot could do one or more of these jobs simultaneously.

    So many people out of work, shoppers will not have sympathy. I don’t and won’t. I especially have no sympathy for the fact that whenever I see photos of the Union-labor protesters, especially the leaders, for these grocery stores, they predominantly seem to be on average 80 to 120 pounds overweight – what are they doing, eating the profits? That tells me they are lazy and want to stay in their overtly easy jobs, the kind of jobs that don’t take much thinking nor take much physical exertion.

    Want to start with REAL healthcare? Start with your own health and lose all that lard you are carrying around. Union Pigs backed by lazy, effort-free losers that use unionization to black-mail a system already on the verge of going out of business. Either that, or the independents will come in and buy their locations; independents that are NOT unionized.

    So when that happens – these idiots will end up in NON-Union jobs with NO benefits. Personally I would be very thankful as a customer to see Ralphs, Albertsons’ and Vons go non-union and not be forced to inflate their prices to pay these losers black-mail wages. I like Ralphs, but as it is now, the Non-Union stores like Vallarta that I have been going to recently in the past 6 months, have been providing better/fresher quality produce, better meat, a better selection of exotic foods and seafood, MUCH-friendlier customer service, and MUCH lower prices – all for the same brands and volume (Vallarta if you are wondering.)

    If they lose their jobs; serves them right. Their attitudes and lazy ethics have ALREADY lost me as a customer at Ralphs and Vons in the past year, now shopping predominantly at Vallarta Supermarkets – A NON-UNION WORKFORCE!!


    • wgaf

      No fooling, just look at the whiny lardaS$ union cops and firefighters, at least 25% of the retiring fataS$ morons are claiming worker’s comp while on the job.

      Probably the same puS$ies that report my replies, grow a pair, aS$wipes.

    • A cop

      So let me get this straight. LAPD has approximately 10,000 cops. So according to your math, 2500 of them are claiming workers comp. WOW!!!!!

      Let me get you their internal affairs number so you can let them know about that. You may also want to let the mayor know about it also.

      How come the media hasn’t covered this? This is public information.

      • wgaf

        So, where’s that phone#, puS$Y dumbf**k?

    • Mufon

      I’ll ask again, wgaf, why don’t you join the police department and donate your salary to charity? Not afraid of doing that job, are you? And where do you get the 25% figure? If you’re going to post and be a buffoon, at least post factual data.

    • Thomas

      Can you say self-scanners?

  • uhoh

    Entry level positions. How much do you think a grocery store scanner should get paid. It’s not rocket science.

  • Sabrina

    To the 3 big corporates have pity on your hardworking workers and their families who have less!!!Make this world a better place to live in and stop the greed!!!Let your workers feel that you appreciate them by giving them what they want which is a necessity and is not even a luxury…Show these workers you care for them…They are not asking for too much!!!All they want is a fair contract for their loving families…To Vons,Albertsons and Ralphs open your hearts for these workers who are doing their best to give the best service they could ever give to their customers treat them as your own family…Hope and Pray that you can resolve this Peacefully…God Bless!

    • stspecialk

      I will work for less!!!

    • ochector

      So Sabrina, how much do you care about the workers? Every contract the unions want more and eventually you look at paying 30% more for your groceries at the big 3 vs. their competitors, are you telling me you’ll gladly pay that premium taking that extra money away from you and/or your family? I’ll bet you you won’t.

  • Phoebe

    Is anyone keeping score, pulbic supporting the strike vs. public angr/resentful not supporting the strike. . son far the score board appears to be Angry/Resently way ahead!. Yes, how much do they should be entitled to these days? How much education do most of the positions require?

  • Igor Doublebubblevich.

    These 3 stores are like H&R Block, overpriced ripoff, stater Bros, food 4 less much cheaper.

    • Thomas

      Food 4 less is owned by Ralphs and the prices aren’t that much cheaper.

  • stspecialk

    With minimal training, I will take any of those jobs at a 10% pay reduction AND NO benefits at all.

    Get back to work. There are many, many, many people who would love to have your job.

    • Marconi Darwin

      Yes, that is what a race to the bottom looks like

  • lou

    most of you who want the union to close down….you never had a chance to tive that life as a union member…do you realy think the groceries stores are not making money your wrong… they to dont want to give up there comfort of living..How about all you none union worker …. if the insurance company said you have to start to pay more for your premiun …. i think you will feel the same way… the unoin is there to fight for you….It effect thousand of faimlys and thousands of dollars that why they could negotiate…Am a union worker i pay union dues….my premiun and code payment went up and my coverage went down …I dont think that fair AND we have not gotten a raise for over 5 YEAR..This is not a time to make a change .. Its better to have a job then not to have a job….

    • shelley

      you guys don’t even know what your talking about. Do you think we are full time? No we are not. We get twenty-four hours a week. How do you afford to pay for insurance also? We are not even asking for a wage increase. I don’t hear anyone ragging on the teamsters who just got a 2.00 dollar an hour raise and a bonus.

      • Thomas

        What did they get for medical? That’s probably why no one is “ragging” as you say about it.

        You guys are ragging on something that everyone is having to pay more for and who are making less.

    • stspecialk

      I could care less about YOUR union if you don’t care about Public Service Workers Unions.

  • jackie

    These workers are greedy as wekk as the union pres who makes over 200,000a year. Look at people onh Social Sec. who pay over $100 a month for Part B of Medicare. A lot of these workers have a zillion kids so they want the companies to pay. What’s going to happen is their hours will get cut and in order to get insurance they have to work so many hours. I don’t think they thought this out before they sign a strike deal. They just shot themselves in the foot.

  • lou

    ask yourself why everthing is so high prize… oo yea right gas is high the houseing killed eveyone and the rich get richer and you went the union out there the only one that will fight for you & for your labor rights…. something you do have in your company …But the truth is evrything is to high cost … the same penny gum that i use to buy is now 25 cent in the gumball ….. really the gas and oil insurance cause this that what moves the the country …. just to transfer it from one city to another wow… need to go after them that couse this …. all you wanted a change …will here it is…. this is the change you get… now you have to fight for what you have … soon we will be a 3 world country and you dont see it coming…… the rich is rich and the poor is poor ….no middle class …the union workers are the middle class workers…

  • clint

    $582 is what a full time employee presently pays for their healthcare. it is part of their salarythat is paid directly to the trust fund. no company gives that to them, they earn it. as for grocery bills going up, when the companies won alll the concessions in 2004 did they raise or lower prices? if anyone thinks that these chains will lower prices after this is all over you are fooling yourself. we do not want a raise nor are we against paying the $23 weekly premium. we do want the medical adequetly funded for the duration of the contract and the employers have not agreed to do so. also we stood side by side with public employee workers in wisconsin and ohio and indiana and we will stand with you. since when did an honest days work become such a dividing issue?

    • bugman

      I paid about $23 .00 every two weeks with the company I worked for,sounds good @ $500.00 a Year.Kaiser,@20.00 a visit.! I did not cry@ $20.00 to see a doctor!!!. to much BS and a lot of crybabies!!!!

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