Updated at 12:20 p.m. Monday.
Workers at the Big Three chains will not go on strike. A tentative settlement was announced by Local 770 in Los Angeles around noon Monday. See separate story for more details.
“Talks went through the night and both sides are still at the table,” said Ellen Anreder, spokeswoman for the United Food and Commercial Workers, in a 6:59 a.m. email to La Mesa Patch. She also updated the media during the 2003-04 grocery strike.
At 11:45 p.m. Sunday, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 in Los Angeles reported on its website: “We will be negotiating past midnight. Continue working until you hear from your union rep. ... If there is meaningful progress, we will continue to negotiate. DO NOT WALK off your jobs until you have received official notice from your union representative.”
Earlier, Mike Shimpock of UFCW Local 770 “As long as there’s progress being made, we’ll stay at the table. Our top priority is to get a negotiated agreement. We don’t want to go on strike and really we shouldn’t have to because these companies make enough money.”
Albertsons released this statement at 7:25 p.m. Sunday:
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.
In Coronado, employees at both Vons and Albertsons seemed relaxed Sunday night, with no palpable tension as workers continued stocking and bagging as usual, and customers perusing the shelves.
“A union rep could just walk in any minute,” a Vons employee told Coronado Patch.
In a , nearly half of the respondents (48 percent) said they would keep shopping at Vons, Albertsons and Ralphs even if the workers walk out.
One reader commented: “I'm sick of these union workers extorting the public to pay for their ridiculous benefits and never having to pony up themselves. I have no sympathy for them in this economy. I’d love for one of them to try and stop me from crossing a picket line.”
In La Mesa, as the original 72-hour strike countdown neared 7 p.m., a man sat in a car bearing a Teamsters bumper sticker near the entrance of Albertsons on Fletcher Parkway.
He said his granddaughter worked inside, and he wanted to make sure she would be safe in the event she walked off the job. She didn't have to immediately.
At the Ralphs on Grossmont Boulevard, several dozen cars were parked outside and shoppers were loading their vehicles with no hint of urgency.
Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons grocery store workers in Southern California went on strike for 141 days in 2003-04 after contract negotiations stalled, primarily over health-care issues.
Despite the possibility of a strike, clerks at Ralphs and Vons in Santa Monica said Sunday that there could be a glimmer of hope,
They said the stores have still been getting fresh deliveries of perishable goods—such as bread, produce and meat—made by Kroger's and Safeway, which own the respective chains. That could be a sign that the stores don't plan to close.
“I think that does mean something,” union spokesman Mike Shimpock said. “And if they start to move in the negotiations, we intend to stay at the table” and not call a strike.
In an earlier statement, union leaders said: “We’re ready to fight to preserve good jobs. We understand this is a tough economy, but we’re willing to stand up for workers everywhere being taken advantage of by profitable corporations. It is unfair and wrong for these corporations doing so well to use the economy as an excuse to squeeze those working paycheck to paycheck.”
Health-care benefits again have been the sticking point between negotiators in the latest talks. Union officials said the health-care proposal by the supermarket chains would bankrupt benefits by the end of 2012, potentially eliminating all health-care benefits for grocery workers.
In a statement released earlier Sunday, Vons said about half of its employees make no weekly contribution to their health benefits and the others pay $7 a month for individual coverage and $15 for full family coverage.
The company has proposed that all employees pay $9 for individual and $24 for family coverage, the Vons statement said.
Albertsons said in a statement over the weekend that it learned from the 2003-04 labor dispute that it doesn’t make good business sense to operate all of its stores during a strike.
The company said it thinks up to 100 stores could close for some or all of a strike. The La Mesa Albertsons would be one, an employee told Patch this week.
Ralphs said it would initially close all of its stores if a strike is called.
Both sides in June announced a tentative agreement on pension benefits and employers’ contributions that fund those benefits. Grocery workers have been working under the terms of a contract that was extended after it expired in March.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa urged both sides to work out a deal, saying: “At a time of persistently high unemployment, poverty and foreclosures, the last thing we need is a devastating strike that will make it more difficult for thousands of workers to put food on the table for their families, pay their mortgages and afford other basic necessities.
“The ripple effect will further damage our local economy.”
In its post late Monday morning, UFCW Local 770 said:
Still negotiating. Continue working until you hear from your union rep. We will update you as necessary. Union negotiators are currently still at the table trying to negotiate a fair deal.
If the employers refuse to adequately fund healthcare, we will be forced to walk out and call a strike. If there is meaningful progress, we will continue to negotiate. DO NOT WALK off your jobs until you have received official notice from your union representative.
Ralphs is threatening to close its stores if grocery workers strike.They are doing this because they can’t run the stores without you, and they know customers won’t cross the picket lines. It is illegal to close the stores, fire the workers and reopen non-union.
Ralphs broke the law during the last strike and had to pay $70 million in penalties. They won’t risk that again.
So understand this: Ralphs knows that you are critical to their success and that consumers overwhelmingly support you. They simply cannot operate their stores in a strike or lockout.
Contributors to this report included Sarah Kovash in Coronado, Chris Stone in La Mesa, Shauntel Lowe in Rancho Bernardo, Kurt Orzeck in Santa Monica, Jared Morgan in Beverly Hills and Paul Chavez in Marina del Rey.