Grocery chains, employees union extend expiring contract until end of March

Ralphs grocery store sign
Ralphs grocery store sign Frank Farm/Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)

You won’t see picket lines outside Ralphs, Albertsons or Vons - at least for a few more weeks. The current contract between those grocery chains and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union was set to expire on Sunday. Negotiators agreed late Thursday night to extend it until the end of the end of month.

Mike Shimpock is spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 770. Shimpock says he’d like to prevent a strike like the one seven years ago that lasted almost 5 months.

"We had people that lost their homes," says Shimpock. "Their children were unable to receive critical health care. They lost their jobs, they had to leave the industry. And we saw consumers not return to some of the stores after the strike, just because of the contentious nature of it."

Shimpock says that, before the previous strike, negotiators reached new contract deals well before the old ones expired. "Since then, however, the companies have been using delaying tactics to get past the expiration of the contract in order to gain leverage over the members and really inconvenience their consumers."

Shimpock says the sticking points this go-round relate to health and welfare benefits. In a statement, Ralphs spokeswoman Kendra Doyel says the company continues “to negotiate in good faith with the labor unions on a number of topics to reach a fair and equitable contract.”

The union local represents 62,000 grocery store workers in Southern California. Lengthy talks between the grocery stores and union have become commonplace. Negotiators reached the current contract in 2007 – nearly six months after the one before it had expired.

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