Grocery strike expands to three more states
Oct 14, 2003 12:00 PM, from staff and wire reportsWorkers at 44 Kroger Co grocery stores in West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky went on strike at midnight October 13Ñdays after employees walked out in Southern California, according to a Houston Chronicle newspaper report.
More than 2,000 members of the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400 approved a strike, union officials said. A Kroger spokesman said the company planned to shut stores as of midnight October 13, but its pharmacies would stay open.
At the Southern California chainsÑAlbertson's, Kroger Co's Ralph's, and Safeway's VonsÑstore managers and replacement workers drove supply trucks, restocked shelves, and rang up purchases to keep the nearly 900 stores open after employees went on strike October 11.
In West Virginia, union president Jim Lowthers said Kroger's proposal didn't provide enough money to pay for benefits. "They ought to be providing for the families that helped earn that money," he said.
The union represents about 3,300 workers for the Cincinnati OH-based chain in 37 stores in West Virginia, five in Ohio, and two in Kentucky. Kroger is West VirginiaÕs fourth-largest employer, with about 5,100 workers statewide.
In Missouri, about 10,000 union members are on strike at the St Louis areaÕs three largest chain grocers. The 96 stores affected have hired temporary workers and cut hours. The biggest sticking points are medical costs and pay raises.
Kroger proposed an 8%Ñor $9 millionÑincrease for workers in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio, in a health and welfare fund administered by a third party.
The company's offer also included hourly raises in 2004 and 2005, along with lump-sum payments of $300 to $500 in 2004 and 2006 and more full-time employees.
Kroger earned $542 million on sales of $28.6 billion for its first fiscal half ended August 16, down from $569.3 million on sales of $27.6 billion a year earlier.