For six months, negotiations have been underway between the United Food and Commercial Workers and Southern California grocery stores like Ralphs, Vons, and Albertsons. But things aren’t going well. A plethora of issues remain critically divisive and the whole matter is coming to a head this weekend. On Friday and Saturday, grocery workers throughout the region will vote on whether their local labor unions should initiate a strike.
According to the Los Angeles Times blog, the issues yet to be settled include major points like healthcare benefits, wages, and acceptable staffing levels. The healthcare issue is named as particularly provoking – grocery store chains are reportedly asking for higher healthcare premiums that could consume as much as 50 percent of some grocery workers’ total wages. “At best, according to sources on both sides, the talks are going slowly,” reads the report. “At worst, they say, the tone has devolved from hope to frustration.”
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While union workers voted in favor of striking where necessary back in April, changes in terms talked out between the grocery stores and the unions have necessitated a second vote – still, it seems likely that strikes will occur if drastic changes aren’t made within the next critical hours.
In the meantime, some grocery stores are already taking precautions. “On Wednesday,” the L.A. times reports, “customers walking through the front door of the Albertsons store at West 39th Street and Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles were greeted with a sign offering $10- to $13-an-hour jobs ‘for temporary replacement associates due to a potential labor dispute at our store.’” Ralphs, on the other hand, is reportedly “confident in the contingency plans it has in place in the event the unions call a strike” and has no current plans for hiring strike breakers.