Reports indicate that some 47,000 workers at hundreds of Ralphs (Kroger), Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions stores throughout the bottom half of California will walk off the job after the United Food and Commercial Workers union failed to reach an agreement before the latest three-year contracts expired on March 6.
Another perfect storm to strike the food economy, a potential strike would leave thousands of grocery stores and supermarkets without clerks, butchers, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.
The results of a vote on the strike are expected to be released on March 27.
Employees had asked for a $5-an-hour wage increase, among other proposals, only to receive an offer of a 60-cent wage increase, which the union called "shockingly low" and well below what workers need to cover cost of living in California.
"Both companies have refused to agree to expand safety committees in the stores, and have yet to negotiate meaningful health and welfare benefits," a United Food and Commercial Workers statement reads.
On the final day of negotiations, the union emphasized that grocery workers are essential, as was demonstrated throughout the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) plandemic.
"We saw how people were acting like the world was ending, but we could not stay home," said Erlene Molina, a Ralphs employee and bargaining committee member, to company negotiators.
"We knew that we had an obligation to our community, so we showed up every day."
On-and-off food shortages have been a problem ever since the beginning of the plandemic, as has inflation and supply chain problems.
The loss of grocery workers in America's most populous state at a time when inflation is through the roof amid talks of war will only add fuel to the fire of an already delicate situation.
In a statement, Ralphs said the union vote creates "unnecessary concern for our associates and communities, at a time when we should be coming together in good faith bargaining to find solutions and compromise."
"At Ralphs, we remain focused on settling a deal with the UFCW," the company added.
Albertsons issued a statement as well, claiming that the goal of the negotiation is "to provide our employees with a competitive total compensation package of wages, health, welfare and pension benefits."
"We are committed to working collaboratively to ensure that we reach an agreement that is fair to our employees, good for our customers and allows Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions to remain competitive in the Southern California market," the company added.
The union has likewise not yet reached agreements with other California supermarket chains, including Gelson's, Stater Brothers and Super A.
Back in 2019, employees of Ralphs, Vons, Pavilions and Albertsons voted to authorize a strike, however contracts were ultimately reached without the need for a walkout.
As some will recall, there was also a massive grocery workers strike back in 2003 and 2004 that put nearly 70,000 southern California grocery workers on picket lines for more than four months. Should something like that happen again at a time like this, it could be catastrophic.
"I honestly believe grocery workers deserve high pay because it is unbearable working under pressure tolerating the behavior of all kinds of people," wrote someone in response to the news.
"Companies have been exploiting these workers unfairly. I know companies never lose money because they pass it on to the consumers. Go to a protest, I am with you."
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