Grocery workers’ union voting on possible strike

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Unionized employees of Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons in San Diego County and throughout Southern California are voting Wednesday on whether to authorize a strike.

If members of seven locals of the United Food and Commercial Workers vote to authorize a strike, union leaders could ask workers to walk off the job at any point afterward. Many union members have been working under the terms of the previous contract, which was extended when it expired on March 6, said the union's Ellen Anreder.

The stores and the union are still at odds over the terms of new deal.

In 2003-04, a 141-day strike in Southern California was estimated to have cost the stores about $1.5 billion.

A notice on the UFCW Local 135 Web site said the vote, which is mandatory for members, comes after months of negotiations with the stores.

The vote is an “unnecessary distraction,” said Daymond Rice of Safeway, which owns Vons.

“We had been making slow, but steady progress toward our goal of negotiating a new contract that is good for our employees and good for the business,” Rice said. “We urge the unions to return to the bargaining table so that we can continue negotiations and finish the job.”

Kendra Doyel of Ralphs said there were “difficult issues to work through” but the company was committed to negotiating.

Anreder, who speaks on behalf of UFCW locals in California, said negotiations are continuing but would not divulge the sticking points.

“The bottom-line is the employers are stalling,” Anreder said. “We're not in a position to stall.”

Some employees voted this morning at the Del Mar Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall, while more are scheduled to cast ballots beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Categories: KUSI