SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KGTV) – Tens of thousands of grocery workers across Southern California, including here in San Diego County, were set to hit the picket lines, potentially this week, due stalled contract deals with Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions and Ralph’s, but on Monday that strike was averted.
The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), representing employees, has reached a new 3-year tentative agreement with the food companies, with the help of a federal mediator.
“We went, I think, 36 hours straight to get this done early, early yesterday morning,” said Todd Walters, president of UFCW Local 135, one of seven locals involved. Walters said the deal includes changes to compensation and benefits.
“We’ve made some improvements in health care, nothing major, but for our members, it’s major, whether it’s dental or visual, we’ve made things better for them,” he said. “I’m convinced it’s a good contract. Are both parties leaving with everything they want? No. That’s why it’s called negotiating.
Some workers had initially demanded a three-year, $5-an-hour wage increase, but Walters could not go into specific details of the agreement reached.
“Obviously salaries were a big issue for us, minimum wage had collapsed on a lot of our pay rates, we had a lot of members in their 20s or 30s who were making a few dollars more than minimum wage, so we tackled that,” he said. .
Walters said grocery store employees continued to work during the pandemic due to stress and verbal attacks, while others were able to transition to working from home.
“Everyone knows the grocers have been on the front lines of the pandemic, they’ve been in front of this big resignation where people don’t want to work. They work 6 and 7 days a week,” he said. The members of the grocery store were stranded during the pandemic. They were masked police officers, they were verbally abused. I hope this contract will reward them and that this work will remain respected.
Nothing is finalized until members have had a chance to review the new 3-year agreement and vote on it.
The contract ratification vote will begin on Monday the 11th and end on Wednesday the 13th.
“When voted, there will be a running total of all of Southern California, that is, Bakersfield to the border; the majority of those votes will be counted to approve the contract,” Walters said.
A separate, tentative 3-year contract deal was also reached earlier with Stater Bros. All day, without an appointment, the vote to ratify this contract will take place this Thursday in San Marcos.