After seven months of unproductive negotiations with grocery employers, UFCW Southern California local unions left the bargaining table on Tuesday. The latest offer by the three grocery companies, Safeway, Kroger and Supervalu, was an insult to members, and left UFCW leadership with no choice but to break off negotiations.
The companies are trying to force another strike, like the work stoppage they caused in 2003 that put 60,000 UFCW members on picket lines for nearly five months and disrupted shoppers and communities throughout the region.
The three grocery giants have repeatedly denied members’ need for accessible, affordable health care, and living wages for all workers. This despite the fact that all three companies have shown a recent rise in profits that analysts predict will continue to grow.
It would appear that Safeway CEO Steve Burd knows that workers need affordable, quality health care for themselves and their families. That’s why he announced earlier this week that Safeway and nearly 40 other companies were launching the Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform (CAHR). The UFCW applauds Burd and other CAHR participants as welcome voices to this important discussion. We wish that all three grocery leaders would bring this commitment to the bargaining table.
UFCW members will be reaching out to consumers in Southern California and across the country to remind the grocery giants that their success is due to workers and shoppers, and that they need to show concern for their community and workers by reaching a fair agreement with Southern California workers.
Two grocery companies in Southern California, Stater Bros. and Gelson’s, settled fair contracts with UFCW members that included quality, affordable health care and living wages for all workers. That two regional supermarket chains can afford to offer their workers a fair contract proves that it’s possible to be profitable while still showing your workers respect.
If these regional markets can offer a fair contract, then surely Supervalu, Kroger, and Safeway — national supermarket chains that are currently raking in billions of dollars in profits — can do the same.
Southern California’s grocery workers, together with Stater Bros. and Gelson’s Markets, created a road map to a fair contract, a map that can be followed by the national chains. But instead of doing the right thing and partnering with the workers who helped them return to profitability, these national companies dragged out negotiations in an effort to keep their workers’ wages low and benefits out of reach for workers and families.
Southern California’s grocery workers are unified, and UFCW-represented grocery workers across the country are supporting them as well. But it’s time to end this drawn-out, dead-end negotiations process. With the support of the public, UFCW members can and will win a fair contract — even if means a long, difficult battle.