Talks Resume In Effort To Avoid Grocery Strike

United Food and Commercial Workers Union In Talks With Albertsons, Ralphs, Vons

Talks resumed on Monday in a last-ditch effort to avoid a strike at Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union headed back to the bargaining table with Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons for the first time since the union voted to authorize a strike.

"We are back at the tables today which is just the place we want to be," Albertsons spokesman Fred Muir told 10News. "It's the only place we're really going to achieve a contract. The centerpiece of our proposal so far is that employees pay $9 a week for medical coverage [and] full families pay $23 a week. Right now, they don't pay anything."

Mickey Kasparian, the president of the local chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, told 10News, "If it was about $9 a week we wouldn't be having this conversation. It's about our benefit fund collapsing because they do not want to fund it adequately."

Both sides agreed that they would be hurt by a strike.

"I know we want to get a deal done," said Kasparian. "A strike doesn't help anybody… not the grocery workers, not the companies, not the community, not the customers."

San Diego State University marketing professor Miro Copic said the other non-union and independent grocery stores would benefit.

"There's enough of them in terms of density that people can switch shopping patterns to go to those stores rather than Vons, Albertsons and Ralphs," said Copic.

Copic also warned that the economy will be a factor.

"With this level of unemployment and the relatively small amount of benefits they're negotiating over, I think a lot of people in dire economic needs are not going to be as sympathetic as in 2003 when there was 5 percent unemployment," he said.

Some shoppers told 10News on Monday that if the union chose to strike, the picket line is something they would not cross.

Stephene Russo, who currently shops at Ralphs in Hillcrest, said he will likely shop at Trader Joe's if the union decides to strike.

"I think it's very important for the employees to get their benefits and everything has been trimmed down to them," said Russo. "Very supportive of them."

According to a 10News scientific poll that surveyed 500 San Diegans, 28 percent said they would not cross the picket line, while 65 percent said they would.

Andres Lucas said he will continue shopping no matter what.

"Although I feel for the people who are striking and those who it would affect, again, I have to worry about my own livelihood right now," said Lucas.

In the same 10News poll, 44 percent said a strike would have no impact on their lives, while 18 percent said a strike would greatly impact their lives.

If the strike does happen, the union is required to give at least three days notice before it goes into effect.

Workers at the Trader Joe's in Hillcrest told 10News they have already hired some extra employees in case a strike does happen. Trader Joe's employees are not represented by a union and workers there said they expect an influx of customers if their counterparts do strike.

The strike in 2003 cost the supermarkets an estimated $1.5 billion.

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