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Calif. Grocery Workers Add New Claims to Lawsuit

LOS ANGELES - The United Food and Commercial Workers amended its lawsuit against California's three largest supermarket chains on Thursday to include complaints that the chains are withholding past-due pay, Reuters reports.

The UFCW sued Kroger Co., the parent of Ralphs stores, and Albertsons Inc. for allegedly failing to follow protocol when they locked out workers. The new complaint accuses the two chains of violating state laws that require "reporting time pay" for locked-out employees who showed up for work as scheduled on Oct. 11 and Oct. 12.

Ralphs and Albertsons locked out their employees on Oct. 11, the same day workers at Safeway Inc.'s Vons and Pavilions stores went on strike over health and pension benefits.

According to the lawsuit, the two chains were required to pay the locked-out workers a guaranteed percentage of wages they would have earned in their scheduled work shifts.

A second new claim accuses all three chains of failing to pay workers their earned wages for vacation and sick leave accumulated before the strike began. California labor law requires employers to pay all earned wages by the next payday -- in this case, Oct. 16, the lawsuit said.

Ralphs spokesman Terry O'Neil had no comment on the new claims, saying the company's lawyers had not yet seen them, according to Reuters. He said Ralphs had no plans to resume talks with the seven UFCW locals "anytime soon."

Reuters wasn't able to reach spokeswomen for Albertsons and Vons for comment.

The strike and lockout is the biggest labor dispute to hit the U.S. grocery industry in a quarter-century, and analysts fear it could drag on for weeks. Walkouts have already spread to supermarkets in Missouri, Ohio and Kentucky and could soon cripple supermarkets in Indiana, Arizona, Illinois and Oregon.
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