Both sides in SoCal grocery contract dispute head to bargaining table 1 last time

Mercer 20398

Brian Watt/KPCC

Grocery store worker casts his ballot.

Union leaders and employers for Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons are headed back to the bargaining table. The two sides will try, once again, to reach an agreement on a new contract. Union leaders say they’re not optimistic.

A federal mediator ordered both sides to resume their talks early next week after the union voted over the weekend to reject their employers’ latest contract offer.

United Food and Commercial Workers union president Rick Icaza says workers are getting frustrated and, if they have to, they’re ready to walk the picket lines.

“You can imagine not having a wage proposal in six months," Icaza says. "It’s outrageous. And the health care is inadequate.”

The stores are asking for workers to pay more for their health care. Union members argue the chains need to pitch in more too to keep the insurance fund from going under.

Union members also voted overwhelmingly over the weekend to authorize a strike, if necessary. Store representatives called the action a common tactic in negotiations.

That categorization undermines the concerns of workers, says union supporter Rabbi Jonathan Klein. “They’re not asking for yacht trips and insanity like that. What they’re asking for is just the basic dignity that they deserve as community members.”

Grocery store representatives maintain they’re committed to reaching an agreement with workers, though Albertsons and Vons say they’ve started handing out job applications to prospective employees in the event of a strike.

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