© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Union Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) logo is seen at their headquarters in Washington, DC, U.S., August 30, 2020. REUTERS / Andrew Kelly
(Reuters) – About 48,000 grocery workers voted to strike if necessary when demanding higher wages from stores owned by Kroger (NYSE 🙂 Co and Albertsons Companies Inc in Southern California, union UFCW 770 said on Saturday.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) sought significantly higher and equal wages, adequate staff and full working hours in their negotiations with grocers, starting on January 28th.
As food prices rise in the United States, workers are driving large corporations that are hitting record profits to supply more.
Politicians, including President Joe Biden and Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have also voiced support and called for companies to share a larger share of their profits.
The union said in a statement that it would notify workers if a decision to strike is made.
It said there’s a big difference between its recommendation and the 60 cents-per-hour increments or less than 1% increments offered by grocers, including Ralphs, Albertsons, Pavilions and Vons.
Kroger-owned Ralphs called the union’s proposal unrealistic because doing business in California is so expensive, while it proposed sustaining an investment of nearly $133 million in annual health care benefits.
The grocer, which has about 190 stores in California, said it may have to start making contingency plans, including advertising for temporary workers, to keep its business afloat.
When the previous employment contract expired on March 6, the labor union imposed unfair labor practice fees on grocers. These include allegations of trying to influence members by providing gifts and outsourcing work.
The union said negotiations with grocers would resume on Wednesday, and if negotiations fail, it will decide next steps.
Ralphs also said on Monday that it hoped the union would return to the bargaining table with a renewed interest in striking a balanced deal.
Albertsons did not respond to a request for comment.
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