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California Grocery Workers Reach Settlement

A strike by 10,000 grocery workers in San Diego County was averted today when union negotiators struck a tentative agreement with the owners of Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons/Pavilions.

Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 770.
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Above: Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 770.

Aired 9/19/11 on KPBS Midday Edition.

We'll discuss the latest in the negotiations between grocers and union leaders.

Christie Ly, a spokesperson for Albertsons, said the stores welcome the agreement.

"We certainly appreciate the hard work, the support and the patience that everyone has shown for the past seven months and in particular the past few weeks," said Ly.

The two sides faced a 7 p.m. Sunday strike deadline, but labor talks continued through the night, with both sides indicating that some progress was being made.

"There were times, certainly over this weekend, where we expected we were going to have a strike," said UFCW Local 135 President Mickey Kasparian. "Things were slow and not moving and it just seemed to all come together in the 11th hour."

Details of the tentative agreement were not released, but union officials said the pact would protect workers' health care.

About 62,000 employees of the chains throughout Southern California - including those in San Diego - have worked without a contract for six months. The two sides were in dispute over worker health care costs.

George Whalin, a grocery industry analyst, said the 141-day strike in 2003 was hard on everyone. The strike cost stores an estimated $1.5 billion.

"The last time they struck in 2003 the union lost about a third of its membership. People decided to go out and get jobs elsewhere because they couldn't support their families otherwise. So this is not good for anybody," said Whalin. "Certainly short term for the retailers it causes great harm to their profitability."

The deal still needs to be ratified by union members. That process was expected to begin later this week.

Whalin said health care costs will still be a factor in the future.

"The reality is that the cost of health care is going up. Employees are going to have to take more control over their health care," said Whalin.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Avatar for user 'monamontgomery'

monamontgomery | September 19, 2011 at 6:19 a.m. ― 5 years, 6 months ago

The union stewards are bad stewards. First they took advantage of the good hearts of the full time workers to give full medical benefits and a right to vote on union issues to the part time employees who make up 80% of the work force. This forced the stores to stop serving the public from 24 hours a day to 17 hours a day. Now the union stewards are taking advantage of the huge new voting block of part time workers to demand more and more from the stores. This is Communism in action. The union stewards lie to the news press. They say, "The average salary of a worker is only $20,000 per year." They omit the very important fact which is that 80% of the workers are part time. This means that the average worker is getting $20,000 per year for working part time."

Part-time workers are generally not as healthy as full time workers. Not only are the full time workers paying for full medical coverage for 80% of the work force, which is part time, but they are paying for the medical needs of people who are less healthy. This is why the money for the self-insured health care is running out. When you have too many health needs being paid for by a limited fund, the fund runs out. The stores have been bled dry. They have no choice but to close.

The sad thing is what is being done to the full time employees. They are forced to go along with the strike. Ten years ago this cost the full time employees their homes which they lost when they could not pay their mortgages. Now the full time employees once again are paying for the part-timers.

The union stewards should be replaced with responsible grown-ups. The stores can replace 30,000 workers in a heartbeat and who gets hurt? The present work force whose interests are supposed to be furthered by the infantile union stewards. The stores can always change their model from local stores to internet delivery systems. This can be done, but it isolates the American further form his community. What a shame that the union stewards are disrupting our American way of life in such a catastrophic way.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | September 19, 2011 at 11:49 a.m. ― 5 years, 6 months ago

LOL LOL LOL i guesssignonsandiego isn't the only website where posters need to take a basic PS 101 class! LOL FYI, Monty, Communism in action would be something like worker self-management,

And when I read "part-time workers are generally not as healthy as full-timer workers," I STOPPED reading.

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | September 20, 2011 at 4:11 p.m. ― 5 years, 6 months ago

It's not as if grocery workers make a lot to begin with. This trade has long been diminished as a sought-after career thanks to the CEO and shareholders dumbing down this job status. For the CEO to fight so hard against people trying to keep so little is a reflection of how bad business leaders are in America. It's no wonder customer service in general is going the way of the DODO bird.

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