Grocery strike seemingly averted, vote to be taken today

September 23, 2011
Santa Paula News

Santa Paula Vons shoppers seemed to get the wish many expressed Sunday: it looks like there will be no strike called that could have made shopping at the city’s largest grocery store a choice not between products, but rather whether or not to cross a picket line.

It was announced Monday that workers have reached a tentative deal with Vons, Albertsons and Ralphs, who had been locked in a battle with unionized workers across the state. But the deal requires a simple majority vote, which won’t be taken until late this week. Settlement would affect about 62,000 unionized workers in Southern California, including 3,700 in Ventura County who have worked without a contract while negotiations lagged.

The grocery chains, known as The Big Three, issued a statement indicating they were pleased to have reached a tentative settlement and noted, “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.”

Vons, a subsidiary of Safeway Inc., Ralphs, a subsidiary of Kroger, and Albertsons, owned by Supervalu Inc. are the biggest grocers in Southern California and their statement noted the proposed settlement would preserve wages and benefits while allowing the stores to remain competitive.

Health care was a major issue that could not be resolved, with the companies noting a new contract would require employees to pay as little as $9 a week for coverage. But the union countered the real issue was the viability of the privately funded healthcare trust fund, which they said is nearly bankrupt after more than a decade of fixed contribution from the grocery chains. 

With the possibility the strike would start at about 7 p.m. that evening, shoppers in Vons Sunday weren’t aware of the details of the dispute, but rather were concentrating on stocking up - and hoping for the best.

“In Santa Paula we only have the one big store,” said a customer who asked to remain anonymous. “I wouldn’t want to cross a picket line,” she added, “but we have so little here I might have to.”

Her friend, who also did not want her name revealed, disagreed: “I would not cross a picket line... especially when I see what I’m spending for groceries in here.”

The last Southern California grocery strike lasted more than 140 days and it created a shoppers’ - and workers’ - nightmare in 2003. The strike was not only the longest, but it cost workers more than one-third their yearly salary and the chains an estimated $1.5 billion in sales. In addition, people who refused to cross picket lines found new places to shop and some never fully regained their Big Three shopping habits.

Site Search



Call 805 525 1890 to receive the entire paper early. $50.00 for one year.