Jesse Gary and David Gregory
Local grocery store workers have authorized a strike to begin Monday. But it still might not happen.
Grocery store workers issued a 72-hour notice Thursday for canceling their contract extension, paving the way for a strike as early as Monday, the workers' union announced Thursday.
“We’re ready to fight to preserve good jobs,” UFCW union leaders said in a statement. “We understand this is a tough economy, but we’re willing to stand up for workers everywhere being taken advantage of by profitable corporations."
The three major supermarket chains resumed talks with the union under the guidance of a federal mediator late August but haven't made much progress.
Canceling the contract does not mean grocery workers will walk out in 72 hours, but it removes the final barrier to a strike, the union said. After the contract is no longer in effect, a strike can be called at any time.
The unions have been upset over rising health care contributions and the grocery store chains' unwillingness to contribute more.
Under the most recent industry offer, workers would pay about $36 per month for individual health insurance, or $92 per month for family coverage.
But the union said the insurance fund would not be financially viable and wants the supermarkets to contribute more to prevent it from running out of money within 16 months.
"They are unwilling to compromise and are more concerned about hoarding their billions in profits than reaching a fair deal for their employees. We don’t want to strike, but if they won’t negotiate, we have no choice," the Union said in a statement.
Late Thursday night Von's released an e-mail that read "We are disappointed by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Locals’ decision to give the employers 72 hour notice of the cancellation of the contract extension. Doing so needlessly alarms our employees and our customers."
"We are disappointed in this step by Union leadership," said Christie Ly, an Albertsons spokeswoman. "Look, we certainly do not want a strike. A strike doesn't benefit anyone."
"The notice does not mean a strike is imminent or that a strike will necessarily occur at any point. The notice simply allows the union the ability to call a strike if they choose to do so. Vons and the other employers intend to remain focused on the negotiation process and urge the unions to do so the same," the Vons statement concluded.
Union members have been without a contract since March and no tentative agreement on wages has been reached.
Some of the stores have been accepting applications for fill-in workers in case workers do walk off the job.
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