Tentative Deal Reached To Avert Southland Grocery Strike

NAACP Members Join Labor March In Support Of Grocery Workers

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Workers at Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions will begin voting today on a contract agreement their union reached with management over the weekend that could avert a strike by nearly 50,000 workers at more than 500 grocery stores.

The results will be announced on Thursday, said union officials, who added that details of the agreement would be withheld until after the voting.

“We believe this agreement is a step forward towards our vision of what grocery jobs should be in the future,” said John Grant, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 after the agreement was reached early Sunday. “Consumers and community leaders stood with us to show our value and the impact we have in our stores and communities. We have many to thank for their support.”

Ralphs spokesman John Votava also hailed the deal. “We are pleased to have worked with the union to secure increased wages, continued premium health care coverage, and pension. Our associates are the heart of our company and this agreement is a reflection of their contributions,” he said.

On Saturday, Ralphs posted the following update.

“Ralphs and the seven Southern California UFCW locals have reached a tentative agreement for a new contract covering the company's 18,000 associates working in 190 stores in Southern California. The parties were assisted by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services.

“The union will share the details in upcoming ratification meetings.

“Thank you for your patience during this process and your commitment to serving our customers and community.”

A spokeswoman for Albertsons, which owns Vons and Pavilions, also confirmed that a tentative deal had been reached.

The union announced June 26 that its membership had voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if union leaders opt to call one. The vote raised fears of a repeat of the 2003-04 Southland grocery strike, which dragged on for 141 days.

The contract between UFCW and the grocery companies expired in March. That pact was approved by workers in 2016 and included annual raises for most workers, along with increased pay for entry-level cashiers and concessions on holiday pay and retirement age, union officials said at the time.

The employees, who work at 532 stores stretching from Central California to the Mexican border, already had authorized union leaders to call a strike if a new contract couldnt be reached. Ralphs, meanwhile, confirmed last week that it had already started recruiting replacement workers in preparation for a possible work stoppage.

“We are proud to announce that a tentative agreement has been reached with both companies,” UFCW Local 135, which covers San Diego County, said in a statement posted Sunday morning. “We know the road to get here has been a long one for you and your co-workers. Your dedication to standing up for good jobs has been the driving force behind getting a deal that you can be proud to have stood up for.

Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions have 342 stores and 29,000 unionized employees in the region, while Ralphs has 190 stores and 18,000 employees.

Photo: Getty Images

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