The unions representing workers at Ralphs and other grocers in Southern California have set a strike vote following halted negotiations.
A labor dispute is brewing in Southern California. Following the expiration of its last contract with grocery banners including Kroger-owned Ralphs and Albertsons-owned Vons, Pavilions and Albertsons, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) in the region authorized a strike vote.
Barring any settlement through additional negotiations, the vote is set for the week of March 21. Workers from seven local UFCW unions will cast their vote.
The union is seeking wage increases and more safety protections in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement released on March 10, the UFCW Local Union 770 said that the strike authorization came after stalled talks: “We came prepared with proposals to get you the wages, benefits, and workplace protections you need and deserve. The corporate negotiators instead insisted on a contract that shows they don’t respect your hard work and sacrifice,” union leaders wrote. “Worse, the corporations who own Ralphs, Vons, Pavilions, and Albertsons are actively trying to undermine your contract and the rights it guarantees to you in the store and at the bargaining table.”
The affected retailers shot back, saying that they were negotiating in good faith. Ralphs released its own statement on March 10, noting that the grocer had taken part in 12 full bargaining sessions. The statement also read: “A strike authorization vote doesn't mean a strike will happen, but it does create 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."
Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons operates more than 2,200 retail stores with 1,700-plus pharmacies, 400 associated fuel centers, 22 dedicated distribution centers and 20 manufacturing facilities. It operates stores across 34 states and the District of Columbia under more than 20 well-known banners, among them Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw's, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen, Carrs, Kings Food Markets and Balducci’s Food Lovers Market. Albertsons is No. 8 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. Cincinnati-based Kroger is No. 3 on The PG 100.