More than 62,000 grocery workers at Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons in southern California have been working on on a contract extension since March, when the grocery chains proposed new health care provisions with higher premiums, deductibles and co-pays that would force some workers to pay as much as half their paycheck for coverage. As negotiations are reaching into the seventh month, we would like nothing more than to be able to present an agreement to our members that they can ratify on Friday the 19th.
However, the biggest issue is still the funding of the health care plans for these workers and their families. The average grocery store worker makes $25,000 per year. We understand the economic realities of the day, but these workers simply cannot afford to have those additional healthcare costs shifted onto their backs — especially when the grocery chains have raked in $5 BILLION in profits over the last three years. We know they can afford to take care of the people that make the money for them. They just don't want to.
Each month that goes by without a contract, the trust fund that pays the healthcare benefits is losing $6-7 million a month. Negotiations are set to conclude this week, and the seven local UFCW unions will vote on whatever is on the table on Friday. If we can't reach agreement, the local unions will ask for strike vote authorization. If we are forced to strike, we will do so soon after that vote meeting takes place. (For breaking news and strike updates, join us on Facebook.)
You can do your part to help the grocery workers during this pivotal week by going into an Albertsons, Ralphs or Vons (Safeway for those in northern California), seeking out the store manager or director, and letting him or her know that if they force a strike you won't cross the picket — and in fact, you won't ever shop there again. You can also call the execs at those grocery chains- click here for phone numbers.