One, two, three strikes you’re out

“Health no, we won’t go”

This is the battle cry of more than 70,000 Southern California grocery clerks who went on strike last Saturday after lengthy negotiations ended between union representatives and grocery store officials.

No compromise has been reached

Both sides failed to compromise over several major issues, especially management’s proposal to change the cost of health care coverage for employees.

Clerks at Kroger Co.’s Ralphs, Safeway Inc.’s Vons and Albertson’s grocery stores gave a resounding vote to reject the last contract offer and authorized a strike if an agreement could not be reached.

“We don’t want a penny more than were making right now,” said sophomore Matt Dyer.

Dyer works for Albertson’s as a meatpacker part-time and attends EC feels angry at the proposed cuts and wonders about what will happen not only to him but his fellow more older co-workers.

Grocery workers have families to feed

“I have co-workers who are trying to raise a family and who are already hardly making it as it is now. I don’t know how in good faith the company can take away money from faithful employees who have given a large part of their life to these stores,” Dyer said.”A lot of my co-workers are fed up. They don’t want to work for a company who is willing to take away your pension and cut your benefits even though they still make a profit every year.”

Picketing gets ugly

Grocery workers began picketing outside stores early last Saturday and things have started to get ugly between employees and managers of various stores with verbal assaults being hurled at scab employee’s and customers willing to cross the picket line.

“It’s starting to get ugly out there. Last night we heard about someone at our store who cut the brake line of one of the supply trucks. The police came out and said if they discovered who did it they would be charged with attempted murder,” said Ellen Mangan a employee of Albertson’s for 15 years and mother of two EC students.
“Vanessa, Josh and I can’t afford to lose my medical benefits, along with losing the rest of my pension and all Sunday and holiday pay. We are not asking for a raise and don’t expect one. We are even willing to lose our Sunday and holiday pay but the company is not willing to budge,” Mangan said.

Negotiations didn’t help

Union representatives have been trying to negotiate a contract with about 900 stores that make up about 60 percent of the stores in Southern California.

The negotiations broke off between the union and the chains on Oct. 5 and since that time the contract has expired.

Employees and community show support

Teamsters employees have vowed not to cross the picket line and support from the community has been overwhelming in support of the union employees.

“The support has been unbelievable. People are constantly driving by and honking their horn and yelling in support of our cause. I think the majority of the public understands just what were fighting for and why,” said Phyllis Valerio employee of Ralphs for over 21 years.

“I really feel for them. My wife is a checker and the only reason I am not out there is because of our kids. I don’t like having to be in here when my wife and friends are out there suffering through this strike. I have to feel that the company will do the right thing and bring back the employee’s with a fair contract,” said store manager and Ralphs employee for 13 years John Steele.

In the end everyone loses

With losses and anger mounting strikers believe it’s time for some arbitrary third party to settle this dispute so they can get back to work serving the community where they provide their service.

“I think everybody losses in a situation like this. The customer loses out on quality of service and product. The chains lose big profits and the workers lose their paychecks,” Valerio said.