LA grocery store strike? Workers looking for health benefits

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Brian Watt/KPCC

Maria Elena Durazo of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, and Rick Icaza of United Food and Commercial Workers, speak at a gathering of labor leaders on June 8, 2011 to rally in advance of a possible strike by grocery workers.

Healthcare benefits are the sticking point in contract talks between the parent companies of Ralphs, Vons and Albertson’s supermarkets and their union employees in the Southland as the United Food and Commercial Workers Union prepares for a strike.

The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor is starting a fund to support striking grocery workers. It hosted a gathering today at which leaders of organized nurses, actors, teachers and Teamsters took turns saying they’ve got the grocery workers’ backs.

Patrick McCosker, heads of the United Firefighters of Los Angles City, said if there’s a strike, no cook at any of the 100-plus L.A. fire stations would buy groceries at Ralphs, Vons, or Albertson’s.

"We’re not gonna cross those picket lines unless those buildings are burning or some SCAB or some person is heartlessly shopping across the picket lines needs our medical help, and then we will be in there…and then right back out supporting our brothers and sisters," he said to a crowd.

Many speakers remembered the grocery workers strike seven years ago that lasted almost five months. Nobody wants to repeat that, but the grocery workers at the gathering today said they would if they have to.

In a statement, officials of the three supermarket chains said the strike rhetoric is unnecessary because contract talks are still in progress.

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