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Thousands of SoCal union grocery workers prepare to strike

Posted at 5:37 PM, Mar 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-27 20:37:19-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Thousands of union grocery workers could soon go on strike across Southern California, including in San Diego.

This weekend, over 47,000 members of the Unified Food and Commercial Workers union voted to authorize a strike if they could not reach a deal with supermarkets.

“I don’t like doing this. I’m a little offended we have to do this," said Todd Walters, President of UFCW Local 135.

UFCW Local 135 represents 13,000 grocery workers and nearly 7,000 retirees throughout San Diego and Imperial Counties. 

Walters said contract negotiations with Ralphs, Vons, Albertsons, and Pavilions stalled in early March prompting a vote for Unfair Labor Practice strikes.

In San Diego, 99% of the union voted to authorize a strike.

Camilla Fulton is one of the workers who voted in favor of the strike. She's been a cashier at Ralphs for 33 years.

“All we’re asking for is a fair livable wage," Fulton said.

Fulton said she never thought of herself as an essential worker until the pandemic.

“We were here for long hours, 10 hours, 6 days a week because of the way the pandemic was happening we had to limit the number of customers at a time and it was very stressful," she said.

It’s why Walters said the union is asking for better scheduling and hours, along with increased wages.

He said grocery stores have made millions, if not billions off of the pandemic.

“They made money when the grocery stores had the big run and the shelves were empty. They continue to make money off the COVID vaccinations, COVID tests. It’s time to share," Walters said.

In response to the strike vote, Ralphs said its proposal invests $141 million in new wages and prevents increases in health costs.

Negotiations are set to resume on March 30.

If no deal is reached by April 6, Walters said they’re prepared to strike to get workers what they deserve.

“We’re ready to go. This last week, we got a delivery of 3,000 sticks for signs, I’ve got an order for 4,000 more," Walters said.

No dates have been set yet for a possible strike. However, Walters said they'll be holding a picket sign-making event on March 30 with members at their Mission Valley Union Hall. 

Full statement from Robert Branton, Vice President of Operations at Ralphs:

“Our proposal invests $141 million in new wages and prevents increases in health costs. This is a serious commitment by Ralphs to Southern California and to our exceptional associates,” said Robert Branton, Vice President of Operations at Ralphs. “Our three goals throughout negotiations are to reward and invest in our people, keep groceries affordable for our customers and maintain a sustainable business that creates jobs in the future. Ralphs’ proposal meets all three goals. The current UFCW proposal only meets one of those goals. We encourage the UFCW to join us in meaningful and balanced negotiations to promptly deliver wage increases to our associates."