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Smart & Final warehouse workers on strike; Pickets set for Thursday

A shopper fills her cart in a grocery store in Los Angeles. Inflation has made the cost of groceries jump, but some prices have started to level off.
Jacquelyn Martin
People shop in the meat aisle at a Fresh & Easy grocery store in Los Angeles, California.

A picket line is planned Thursday at a Smart & Final warehouse in Commerce, one day after more than 600 workers at two of the grocery chain's warehouses in Southern California went on strike to protest "mass layoffs and other unfair labor practices," their union said.

The workers are represented by Teamsters Local 630, which says the grocery chain — owned by Commerce-based Chedraui USA — plans to close unionized Smart & Final warehouses in Commerce and Riverside. The union said that workers are being forced to reapply for employment at $10 to $12 less per hour at a new warehouse in Rancho Cucamonga.

"The clock is ticking for Chedraui/Smart & Final to make things right," Teamsters Local 630 Secretary-Treasurer Lou Villalvazo said.


"The company is continuing to commit unfair labor practices without any regard for its workers. With the busy summer months approaching, the company faces not just a moral but a logistical crisis. They need to act now to guarantee our members their jobs, decent wages, respect and a fair contract. We will not stand by and watch these workers be exploited."

In a statement, the company said, "The Teamsters' claims are simply not true. We are currently integrating five outdated and capacity-strained facilities that are spread across 2,000 square miles. Our new facility will employ nearly 1,000 people, creating hundreds more American jobs than exist today. This will substantially reduce our carbon footprint and enable us to continue providing affordable food to communities in California that need it the most.

"Additionally, the claim of 600 workers striking is wildly inaccurate. We are operating our distribution centers as usual with no major disruptions in order to continue to serve our customers who rely on us to feed their families."

The two warehouses on strike serve as distribution centers for over 250 Smart & Final grocery stores in California, Nevada, Arizona and Northern Mexico.