Business & Economy

Last Southern California supermarket strike/lockout lasted months

Vons sign
Vons sign
Thomas Hawk/Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)

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Grocery store workers will vote next Wednesday whether to authorize a strike. They believe Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons are stalling negotiations. You may remember the last time we had a strike and lockout. It was October of 2003 – and it lasted more than four months.

What started it was the worry that WalMart’s non-union “superstores” were about to swamp Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons. To get ready, their parent companies pushed for better contract terms from about 70,000 grocery clerks with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

Talks broke down over wages and health benefits. Vons workers walked out, Ralphs and Albertsons ordered a lockout – and off we went on a 142-day labor action that hurt just about everybody, except Stater Bros. and Gelson’s. They’d agreed to abide by whatever deal the union and the grocery chains worked out; their clerks stayed on the job – and Stater Bros. and Gelson’s enjoyed a sales boom.

Four years ago, the grocery workers voted to authorize another strike – but clerks, stores and shoppers sure didn’t want a repeat. That deal got done.

And the Wal-Mart superstores? Neither they nor Tesco’s Fresh & Easy stores have done in the grocery chains.