SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Her feet throbbing, Patty Figueroa stood outside the Albertsons in Lemon Grove Monday, streaks of white frosting lining her black pants.
She'd just finished an eight hour bakery shift, which began at 3:30 A.M.
"I get less than $20 an hour after 35 years still, and so it's really hard," she said.
Those wages, not cutting it amid soaring inflation and gas prices — making Figueroa's commute from Chula Vista that much more painful. She's one of the roughly 7,500 San Diego County grocery workers in the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents employees of Vons, Albertsons, Pavilion's and Ralphs. Members already voted to authorize a strike, which could happen if a new round of negotiations beginning Wednesday fails.
Meanwhile, Albertsons reported a net income of $425 million in last year's third quarter. Workers like Figueroa want a bigger piece of that pie. .
"Like everybody else, I want a peaceful life, I want to be able to afford food and afford my rent and my bills and if I ever have an emergency, I need tires, I want to be able to have tires and not have to charge them," she said.
In a statement, Albertsons says its goal is to provide employees with a competitive total compensation package of wages, health, welfare and pension benefits.
"We are committed to working collaboratively to ensure that we reach an agreement that is fair to our employees, good for our customers, and allows Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions to remain competitive in the Southern California market," the statement said.
In her decades-long career at the grocer, patty and her now-ex husband raised two sons -- both college educated and successful. When patty's car got stolen three years ago. Her son financed her SUV.
She wishes he wouldn't have had to. Eventually, she'd like to retire, but fears at her current wages, it won't be in the cards.
"We're just trying to have a better life," Figueroa said. "That's all we're trying to do. We're not trying to get $50 an hour, we're just trying to get decent money."
That's why if a decision is made to strike, she'll be out front, sign in hand.