Pharmacists at Ralphs, Vons, Albertsons vote to strike – Daily News

on Jul23
by | Comments Off on Pharmacists at Ralphs, Vons, Albertsons vote to strike – Daily News |

At least 600 pharmacists and pharmacy workers at Ralphs, Vons, Albertsons and Pavilions stores in Southern California voted “overwhelming” on Friday to authorize union leadership to call for a strike.

United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents workers across seven locals, filed Unfair Labor Practice charges against the stores with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming they have engaged in “unlawful and unfair treatment.”

The accusations include retaliation against pharmacists who engage in union activity, attempting to bribe pharmacists with bonuses rather than negotiating wage increases and hiring temporary workers to undermine union activity.

No dates have been set for a strike and negotiations with the stores continued on Friday.

“Southern California’s essential pharmacists have made their voices heard with this vote,” the union locals said in a joint statement. “This vote gives union leaders the authorization to call for a strike and lays the groundwork to allow more than 600 pharmacists across California to stand up to protect their rights and ensure they have the ability to effectively serve their patients and communities.”

John Votava, a spokesperson for Ralphs, told CNS the store is continuing to negotiate in good faith and that the strike authorization does not mean there will be a strike or work stoppage.

“Our company is committed to continue to negotiate in good faith with the union locals until an agreement is reached that meets the needs of our pharmacy associates and ensures our customers have access to affordable medicines while keeping stores competitive,” Votava said.

Votava called the Unfair Labor Practice allegations a “fear tactic UFCW can use to call a strike and cause disruption for our company, associates and communities.” He said the National Labor Relations Board has not investigated the claims.

“Ralphs follows the law and has not been notified of any wrongdoing,” Votava said.

The pharmacists currently earn an average of $66.85 an hour, but UFCW said that’s “not enough” amid the current wave of inflation that has boosted the price of gas, groceries and other essential services.

Rifenberg said the supermarket companies have proposed a labor contract that would hike hourly wages by $1.05 in the first year, followed by a 90-cent hike for each of the remaining two years. That amounts to a total increase of $2.85, but the pharmacists want considerably more.

“We’re asking for a $5 an hour increase the first year, a $4 increase the second year and a $3 increase the third year,” said Tim Rifenberg, who works as a floater pharmacist at 20 pharmacies throughout Orange County. “That would be $12, but we’ve offered to reduce that. We’ve put a few offers on the table. When you factor in inflation … we’re just looking for a pay adjustment that would provide the same income we had a year ago.”

Albertsons, which owns Pavilions and Vons, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Staff writer Kevin Smith contributed to this report.

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