Labor contract for supermarket workers expires with no deal – Daily News

on Mar8
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Workers with Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions failed to reach a labor agreement with the supermarket chains this week, despite ongoing negotiations.

The employees, represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, saw their current contract expire Sunday, March 6, a move that has prompted union officials to prepare strike authorization votes.

UFCW Local 324 member Erlene Molina, a front-end manager at a Ralphs and a bargaining committee member, said workers need to be adequately paid for the risks they have taken during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We knew that we had an obligation to our community, so we showed up every day,” Molina said in a statement. “Please step up to the plate, show us that you also put value in our loyalty to you.”

The grocers’ wage proposal amounts to a 60 cent-an-hour increase, union officials said, a hike that falls “shockingly low and well below workers’ cost-of-living needs.”

The employees are seeking fair wages for essential workers, improved safety and security, increased staffing and stable and predictable scheduling. They held a series of informational pickets last week to vent their concerns.

Robert Branton, Ralphs’ vice president of operations, said it was “unfortunate” that more progress wasn’t made during the company’s 12 bargaining sessions with UFCW.

“While the company made several wage proposals, the union continues to propose very costly items which impacts our ability to meet customer needs and remain competitive,” Branton said in a statement. “Our proposals demonstrated a willingness to put more money in our associates’ paycheck.”

Ralphs, a division of The Kroger Co., said its goals for a new contract include:

– More money for all employees

– Keeping groceries affordable for customers

– Maintaining a sustainable business for the future

Ralphs believes its average pay for workers, at $18.90 an hour, is above the retail standard.

In an online update posted Sunday, UFCW 770 said it filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions for surveilling, intimidating and interfering with employees for engaging in union activity.

UFCW-represented workers with Stater Bros. and Gelson’s are also in active labor negotiations with their employers. Local 770 said it also filed Unfair Labor Practice charges against Stater Bros. for circulating surveys with questions about bargaining and for delaying negotiations.

“We finally have our first meeting scheduled for March 10th and will keep you updated as things progress,” the employee update said.

More labor contract meeting dates have been scheduled with Gelson’s.

Ralphs employees said last month they are understaffed, underpaid and working with inadequate COVID-19 safeguards.

In an online update to its members, Local 770 said the supermarket chains have “squandered the unique opportunity to propose a contract with better wages and benefits in a time of immense profit.”

“They have failed,” the union said.

UFCW Local 770 said its bargaining committee delivered petitions to Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions that included stories of losing co-workers and loved ones to COVID-19 and not being able to afford rent or take care of their families.

The union said its has presented numerous proposals with fair wage increases, better health benefits and contract language that protects workers, but added “there is a major disconnect between the value of the wage proposals that the companies are offering and what you as an essential worker deserve.”

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