San Diego grocery workers approve strike

SAN DIEGO - Grocery workers in San Diego County voted Monday to authorize a strike against Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons stores, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135.

The union held a pair of strike votes at the Scottish Rite Center in Mission Valley. Now they are awaiting results from several voting sessions at union chapters across Southern California, which will likely come in Tuesday. 

No date has yet been set regarding when workers would actually walk off the job, Local 135 spokesperson Lori Kern told 10News. That deadline will be finalized once all chapters have voted and approved the strike.

Union President Mickey Kasparian said the latest offer from the supermarket chains would "drastically" impact take-home pay and devastate employees' health-care coverage.

He said the contract between the stores and employees expired more than three months ago.

Ralphs spokeswoman Kendra Doyel said the company is committed to reaching an agreement with union leadership at the bargaining table.

"A strike authorization vote is premature and only serves to cause concern for associates and customers," Doyel said. "We encourage union leadership to return to the table on our agreed-upon upcoming dates and work out an agreement that is good for our associates and allows us to remain competitive in the market."

Susan Shean said the friendly staff at the Mission Valley Ralphs on Friars Road is one of the main reasons she shops there so much.

"I've been shopping in these stores for such a long time, a lot of these people are like family members to me," Shean said.

Shean told 10News she'll be taking her business elsewhere if workers decide to walk out.

"It is hard to make ends meet, and they do need to be paid a living wage, and I support that. So I will not cross the picket line if they decide to go on strike," shopper Kathy Klingenberg said.

Thousands of workers from the same grocery chains walked out for five months in 2003 and 2004. The chains had to bring in temporary employees, and union reps say 75 percent of the customers refused to shop at the stores until the strike ended.

If approved, a walkout would affect more than 60,000 workers in Southern California.

Some customers said if a strike does occur, they're willing to go out of their way to get their groceries.

"It would be an inconvenience, but hopefully not for a long time," Klingenberg said.

"I'm absolutely in favor, I'm stocking up now so I won't need to be crossing any picket lines," Shean said.

Spokespeople for both Vons and Ralphs said they are committed to reaching a deal that satisfies all parties involved.

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