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Labor

Trader Joe's Will be Swarmed as Ralphs, Vons, Albertsons Workers Take a Last Step Toward a Strike

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Mon, Sep 19, 2011 at 11:49 AM

click to enlarge VALLARTASUPERMARKET.COM
  • vallartasupermarket.com
Updated: It's ova. A settlement has been reached, city Councilman Eric Garcetti tweeted. First posted at 7 a.m. Friday

Looks like you're going to be shopping at Trader Joe's, the dollar store, and maybe Vallarta.

That's because the workers at Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons took one giant step toward a strike. You don't want to cross the picket line just for milk, do you?

The United Food and Commercial Workers are pissed that the stores aren't paying more toward their health-care premiums. Workers would have to fork out a little more than $90 a month for family plans under the stores' contract proposal, and even then they claim the combined contributions won't fully fund medical needs in the year or so ahead.

And so late Thursday the union said its canceling a temporary contract extension that was needed to keep talks for a permanent deal on-track.

That means that workers could be striking this weekend because they already authorized picket lines last month. All they need to do is pull the trigger. (Didn't we just go through this? No, that was during George W. Bush's first term, believe it or not).

There are reports that some of the stores involved are already taking applications for replacement workers.

Vons sent us this statement last night:

The notice does not mean a strike is imminent or that a strike will necessarily occur at any point. The notice simply allows the union the ability to call a strike if they choose to do so. Vons and the other employers intend to remain focused on the negotiation process and urge the unions to do so the same.

Workers claim that the stores make billions and can afford a little more health-care money.

The union represents most of the grocery store workers from the border to Santa Barbara.

So, remember, Trader Joe's has great bread and tortillas. And awesome beer. But it's not really the place for paper towels and soap. Be prepared.

Updates: Even as Ralphs threatened to close its stores if the workers walked, talks continued Monday.

President of the grocers' union, Rick Icaza, said Monday morning that talks would continue "as long as we feel progress is being made towards a fair, equitable agreement."

The workers' own deadline to settle or strike passed Sunday night.

Albertsons sent us this statement after the deadline passed:

Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons are still at the table with the union. Progress is being made, but we do not yet have an agreement. Even though the 72-hour notice period has expired, nothing has changed. The terms of our most recent contract -- including wages and benefits -- remain in place, and our stores are open to serve customers as they usually are. We are still hopeful that a contract will be reached soon.

Update No. 2: City Council President Eric Garcetti tweeted that the strike has been averted:

UFCW announces settlement with employers--strike of grocery workers averted. Yea!!

[Added]: Here's the joint statement from Vons, Albertsons and Ralphs:

We are pleased to have reached a tentative settlement agreement with the union that continues to preserve good wages, secure pensions and access to quality, affordable health care - while allowing us to be competitive in the marketplace. We appreciate the hard work, support and patience that many different people have shown during the past eight months, and particularly the past few weeks.

-With reporting from City News Service. Got news? Email us. Follow us on Twitter, too: @dennisjromero.

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