Thursday, June 9, 2011

"L.A. Isn't Wisconsin": Southern California Grocery Workers Close to Strike

At a time when over 12% of Los Angeles County workers are unemployed, leave it to organized labor turn its back on willing employers. The LA Times is reporting that the UFCW, which represents 62,000 employees at the Ralphs, Vons, and Albertsons supermarkets, is reporting that those employees may soon go on strike over health care benefits.

As we wrote last month, the crux of this issue is that the grocery workers want free health care, while the supermarkets want them to contribute towards their benefits. According to a press release from the companies that own the grocers, employees who work as few as 16 hours a week would still be eligible for coverage, and could have insurance for as little as $9 a week. And for their part, the grocers are optimistic about reaching an agreement: "We are still actively negotiating, and any talk of a strike is unnecessary. The only place where we can reach an agreement is at the bargaining table, and we believe our focus should be there, reaching a fair and reasonable contract." The union, of course, is talking tough: at a rally yesterday where many held up signs reading "L.A. Isn't Wisconsin," and at which unionized teachers, actors, and firefighters were present, spokesman Rick Icaza said, "We're so far apart, if something doesn't happen soon, we will have a strike."

We wonder what will happen if the grocers ultimately call the unions' bluff. On one hand, the inflation hitting food prices has to be squeezing the supermarkets, so this might not be an issue they can afford to cave on. And one wonders how sustainable a strike would be: unionized grocers in the region are already losing market share to non-union competitors, and organized labor has been fighting a lot of battles in the past year. But most importantly, the likelihood of a strike backfiring seems higher than it did back in 2003, the last time this happened. Given the brutal job market in southern California these days, it might not be that hard to find people willing to cross a picket line for a paycheck.


  1. Hugh AkstonJun 9, 2011 11:13 AM
    This is why those self checkout lanes at Ralph's are a godsend. One scab can check out six customers at once.
  2. GSLJun 9, 2011 11:25 AM
    Well, those may be on their way out, if the unions get their way.
  3. Hugh AkstonJun 9, 2011 11:45 AM
    Jesus, does Fiona Ma have some kind of hidden volcano lair where she comes up with this crap?
  4. GSLJun 9, 2011 11:46 AM
    Don't give her any ideas.
  5. RobJun 29, 2011 07:15 PM
    Awesome. Last time this happened, Trader Joe's had to expand their hours to accommodate all the new business.
  6. RobJun 29, 2011 07:35 PM
    I should add that the "We'll FIX Fresh & Easy" unionization campaign doesn't seem to have come to anything; their website is scantily updated, and I see no crowing. Favorite sign of absolute cluelessness: linking to a Retailwire article indicating that parent Tesco is still having trouble making a go of Fresh & Easy in markets where they're already built out.