Unions rally in defense of grocery clerks
Jan 21, 2004 12:00 PM, from staff and wire reportsLeaders of unions nationwide have begun to recruit their members to aid striking grocery clerks in Southern California. Union members will try to persuade consumers and community groups to back the clerks via demonstrations, town hall meetings, and letter-writing, as well as with money donations.
Roughly 70,000 supermarket employees have been without work since union members voted October 11 to strike against Safeway's Vons and Pavillions stores. Ralph's stores, which are owned by Kroger, and the Albertson's chain also locked out union employees.
To run the national campaign, the AFL-CIO has named Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the group of 64 international unions; and Ron Judd, who coordinated protests at the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle WA.
Negotiations between the supermarket firms and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) have stalled over contract differences, especially the price and coverage of health-care benefits. Formal talks broke down in December, and behind-the-scenes discussions broke off earlier in January.
UFCW officials asked the AFL-CIO and its fellow unions for help in a meeting January 20.
As of January 1, striking workers are ineligible for medical benefits and have to pay if they want insurance through March. Three chapters of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have pledged $1 million toward health care for the UFCW's neediest members.