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Grocers prep for chance of strike

Posted: August 20, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: August 20, 2011 1:30 a.m.
 

Supermarkets in the Santa Clarita Valley have started posting “help wanted” signs for temporary workers this week in anticipation of a potential grocery workers strike.

“The reason we’re doing this is because the union continues to talk about striking,” said Fred Muir, a spokesman for Albertsons. “And as a result, we need to be prepared.”

“We have an obligation to our customers to keep our stores open,” Muir said.

The grocery workers union began voting on Friday to accept or reject the latest health care proposal by the supermarkets, and whether to give union contract negotiators the authority to call a strike, said Mike Shimpock, a spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770. The voting will continue today and the results will be announced on Monday, Shimpock said.

“We’re trying to draw a line in the sand to protect our jobs,” Shimpock said. “Today, we’re standing up to the markets.”

Health care has been the main sticking point in contract negotiations between the supermarkets and the union, Shimpock said.

According to Shimpock, supermarkets pay into a health care trust fund that pays for employees’ health care. Supermarkets have not increased the amount they pay into that fund for 10 years, and the fund is in danger of going bankrupt, Shimpock said.

According to Muir, the supermarkets have continued to increase the amount they pay into the trust fund every year for the past 10 years. The current health care proposal by the supermarkets includes an increase in the amount of money the markets would pay into the fund, Muir said.

Both sides in the negotiations say they are trying to avoid a strike. A potential strike would affect about 1,200 grocery workers at 16 Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons stores in the Santa Clarita Valley.

If the union decided to strike, it would have to give the markets 72 hours notice before they started striking, Muir said.

“We want the markets to stop dragging their feet, and compromise,” Shimpock said. “We want markets to negotiate a fair and complete deal.”

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