Workers rally outside grocery chain heaquarters

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Brian Watt/ KPCC

Chelsea Davenport (left), Sharon Heckler and Tatanya Bryant (right) at rally in Arcadia.

Hundreds of union employees of Ralphs, Vons, and Albertson’s rallied Tuesday outside the Southland headquarters of the three grocery chains. Their labor contract expired 4 months ago, and the union is threatening to strike.

Healthcare benefits are the sticking point in these protracted contract talks. The supermarket chains want the workers to pay more towards their coverage, but Hermosa Beach Vons employee Chelsea Davenport says they’re asking for too much more.

"It could be as far as $10,000 extra per person extra in premiums? That could set me back financially for years and years," she told a crowd in Arcadia, where hundreds of workers and their supporters marched a short route to Vons headquarters. Their message: we don’t want to strike, but we’re ready.

Vons spokesman Daymond Rice said the strike threat isn’t necessary.

"We need them to come to the table and be focused on real solutions that are gonna help us find a solution to health care which is clearly not gonna be found at a rally."

The two sides are now accusing each other of moving slowly in contract negotiations. Rice, the Vons spokesman, said the supermarkets made a proposal 6 weeks ago but didn’t receive a counterproposal from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union until Monday.

"So we have been asking them for a counter proposal, and in those subsequent weeks, what we’ve seen is a number of made-for-media events."

The union responded that the proposal from the supermarket chains six weeks ago was actually a response to a proposal the union had submitted six weeks earlier than that.

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