Nearly a month after union leaders called a strike against the three largest super market chains, there appears to be no end in a sight for compromise.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union relocated picketers from Ralphs to Alberstons and Vons stores a week ago in order to provide customers with a convenient store to do their grocery shopping for the duration of the strike.
‘It was a gesture of gratitude towards our customers,’ said Ellen Anreder, spokesperson for five of the local unions.
A joint statement published on Oct. 31 by Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons, disagrees with Anreder. According to the statement, the companies see this relocation as a sign of the ‘weakening support from employees and customers for the strike’ and that ‘the union’s strategy to divide the companies will fail.’
Anreder declared Steven Burd, CEO of Safeway, Vons’ parent company, as being single-handedly responsible for the strike.
‘Our problem is with Vons,’ Anreder said. ‘[Burd] has been openly threatening to cut the workers’ contracts.’
Anreder added that it doesn’t seem as though the strike will end soon. Still, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union say they are prepared to resume talks at any time.
‘There are no negotiations scheduled at this point,’ Anreder said. ‘[But] we stand ready to meet at a moment’s notice.’
According to Anreder, the corporations need to propose a new offer for negotiations to resume.
‘The last offer they made was rejected by the employees by 97 percent,’ Anreder said.
According to a statement issued by the companies, the union continues to misrepresent the offer made by their employers.
‘The employers remain united in their belief that we have made a very good contract offer, which includes some of the best health benefits in the country for our current employees, in addition to some of the highest retail wages in Southern California,’ read the statement.
Since negotiations are still not underway, Ralphs picketers were removed so that customers have a place to shop.
‘We wanted to give them a store, because frankly, the residents of Southern California have endured enough,’ Anreder said.
According to fourth-year English major Sarah Franklin, relocating Ralphs picketers was a good idea.
‘It’s appropriate that they moved them,’ Franklin said.
Customers have been very understanding of the situation, according to Anreder.
‘Our customers have been incredibly loyal,’ Anreder said. ‘They are willing to honor the picket lines and withstand the inconvenience, but it was starting to get really difficult.’
At this point, the union’s strategy is to wait for the corporations to present them with another offer.
According to Andreder, the workers are concerned with health care.
‘This is about affordable healthcare for families all over the country,’ Anreder said. ‘The professional companies are trying to shift health care costs on employees’ backs.’
The companies, however, stand firmly against this accusation and insist that ‘the union’s claim today that the companies have threatened to eliminate employees’ medical benefits or pensions is just not true.’
The corporations are also unimpressed by the removal of the picket lines from Ralphs stores.
According to the statement, ‘the companies and the union agreed at the beginning of negotiations that a strike against one is a strike against all. The union’s action today changes nothing.’