Safeway Strike Moves North
Bay Area community joins Southern California striking supermarket workers in fight to stop Safeway’s attempt to eliminate health care benefits
OAKLAND, November 21, 2003 — Labor and community groups declared November 22 a Statewide Day of solidarity in support of striking grocery workers in Southern California. Hundreds marched to the Broadway Safeway in Oakland, where Southern California workers are manning the picket lines. The march will kick-off the Northern California campaign to support nearly 70,000 grocery strikers who have been on strike for the last six weeks in Southern California.
Solidarity Day is the first day of expanded public outreach encouraging customers not to shop at Safeway until the giant supermarket halts its plan to virtually eliminate health care for grocery workers. Labor and community groups especially targeted Safeway CEO Steve Burd, carrying a giant puppet in his image in front of the store. Burd dumped more than $24 million in company stock shortly before the contract dispute.
The striking workers, who are members of the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, have received broad customer and community support for their pickets in Southern California. Stores have lost millions in revenue as customers have refused to cross picket lines during the busy holiday shopping season. Grocery stores like Safeway-owned Vons, Kroger-owned Ralphs and Albertsons are proposing to cut current health care coverage by 50%. New employee benefits would also be eliminated under the proposal.
“We’re not asking for more, we’re trying to keep what we have,” said Corrina Caslar, a Los Angeles grocery worker and mother of three. “They are trying to cut our benefits in half and get rid of health care for new employees. I have a son who needs regular medical care and I can’t afford to lose it. We’re asking people to please not shop at Safeway until Steve Burd agrees to sign a fair contract with us.”
“This strike is about defending health care for all working people. There is a nationwide trend by large corporations to require workers to pay for more while receiving less and less coverage,” said Art Pulaski, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the California Labor Federation.
The strike began on October 11th in Southern California when UFCW members walked out of Vons grocery stores. The Albertsons and Ralphs grocery store chains then locked out workers. Grocery workers in four other states are also on strike.