Employees Strike for Health Benefits

‘Please do not shop’ was the recurring theme at 900 Kroger Co.’s Ralphs, Safeway Inc.’s Vons and Albertsons supermarkets throughout California as the strike against Vons and Vons’ Pavillions began in full force on Oct. 11. Ralphs and Albertsons locked out their employees on Oct. 12.
A statement signed by the presidents of Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons claim that grocery store employees currently do not pay premium for individual or full family coverage. The companies believe ‘it is reasonable to ask employees to share in a very small portion of that cost,’ asking weekly fees of $5 for individuals and $15 for families.
According to a statement given by Lilia Rodriguez, public affairs manager for the Southern California division of Albertsons, 90 percent of American workers already contribute to their health benefit premium cost and the grocery stores are asking for their employees to ‘begin to make a very small contribution.’
Other issues at hand include an increase in hourly wages as well as a reassessment of the current pension plan. The supemarket chains attribute the ‘competitive environment’ for the proposed changes in grocery store employees’ wages, health benefits and pension plans. Employees, including some that are UCI students, believe the companies are not treating them fairly.
UCI students who are employees of the affected grocery stores joined 70,000 employees to protest against the corporations.
Alex Arellano, first-year economics major and an Albertsons’ employee, said the store was trying to take away what he feels the employees deserve.
‘The store is trying to take our benefits and our pay and our premiums, so I’m just trying to represent all the other workers here, trying to get paid and trying to pay some bills,’ Arellano said.
He could not anticipate how long the strike would last, but said he hoped it would end soon.
‘From what I hear right now, there are no negotiations going on right now