Grocery workers rally

From the July-August 2011 issue of News & Letters:

Grocery workers rally

Los Angeles–On June 14, 1,000 mostly young grocery workers and their supporters gathered and marched for a fair contract at the East Hollywood Vons Supermarket. They represented 60,000 workers of the UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) at Vons, Ralph and Albertson Supermarkets who have been without a contract for over three months.

Management has demanded they be able to reduce by 50% the total amount they pay the workers, for wages, healthcare benefits and pension costs. One week earlier, 80% of the rank-and-file workers voted to strike if they do not get a fair contract. The union and management are still in negotiations.

Speakers included grocery workers, Christian clergy and rabbis, and community people who are shoppers at these markets. The president of UFCW Local 1428 said that the average grocery worker, who makes $25,000 per year, can’t afford to pay $10,000 of that for healthcare and/or pension.

Clergy delivered a letter with demands to management. Because management would not appear, the letter was given to security to relay to management.

We then marched over a mile to an Albertson market and held another rally. The workers delivered another letter with demands to management. This one was accepted.

Marchers included supporters from United Long Term Care Workers Union, Justice for Janitors, Coalition for Economic Survival, Jewish Labor Party, and Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice. Signs included “Billions for Wall Street, Nothing for Grocery Workers” and “No 50% Pay Cut.”

A 55-year-old Black woman said she has had to put up with this every four to six years. She said, “When I retire, I want whoever takes my place to have every benefit I have and that won’t happen if they get their way.” Another worker said that without cashiers, meat cutters, baggers, stockers, bakery and deli workers, supermarkets would make no profit.

A retired worker told me we need a general strike. The Unions should not donate money to political campaigns. Instead, they should save it for a needed strike fund.

–Basho

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