Last week’s strike authorization vote does not mean a work stoppage at Southern California grocery stores is imminent, a union leader said.
“We go back into negotiations tomorrow,” said Connie Leyva, president of Union of Food and Commercial Workers Local 1428.
Talks are expected to continue through through this week and the next two weeks, added Leyva, who said she was hopeful a strike could be averted.
UFCW Local 1428 represents grocery workers in the Pomona and Claremont areas. Union members throughout Southern California voted last Thursday to authorize a strike if negotiations with Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons fail to produce a new collective bargaining agreement.
The union is in separate negotiations with Stater Bros. Markets, which is based in San Bernardino.
The UFCW’s Southern California locals last went on strike against Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons in 2003-04. The unions and grocers experienced a prolonged negotiations process in 2007, but succeeded in avoiding a work stoppage.
The members of seven local UFCW unions voted to authorize a strike if negotiators fail to reach a collective bargaining agreement with three supermarket chains.
“Different locals have had different results, but in the end, it was in the 90th percentile,” UFCW spokeswoman Ellen Anreder said Friday.
The vote authorizes negotiators to call a strike against Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons. The UFCW also represents Stater Bros. employees, but the union is in separate negotiations with the San Bernardino-based chain.
Vons and Ralphs representatives said they could not comment beyond a written statement issued Thursday:
Asking for strike authorization is a common tactic in negotiations and does not necessarily mean a strike will be called. Getting sidetracked by these tactics will only delay our ability to reach an agreement on a fair contract for our associates. The real work towards getting a fair contract will happen at the negotiating table and we hope that’s where the union leadership will focus its attention as we return to bargaining next week.
Stater Bros. chairman Jack Brown said his company’s negotiators report directly to him on contract negotiations. He and others reached for comment said they could not disclose any specific sticking points that may be hindering an agreement.
Asked if he expects to reach a deal soon, Brown simply said “We’re continuing to negotiate.”
The UFCW on one side and the triumvirate of Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons battled each other during a 141-day strike during 2003-04. The two sides managed to avoid a strike in 2007 after negotiations went on for four months beyond the expiration of their previous contract.