Somehow surviving on $20 per day strike pay, the United Food and Commercial Workers continue to maintain a picket line outside Vons and Albertsons grocery stores in Southern California. Seventy thousand workers are on strike against Safeway/Vons in Southern California -- and locked out by Albertsons and Kroger/Ralphs. Despite a 91% profit growth over the last five years, the grocery chain owners are demanding wholesale cuts in employee health care benefits. Workers from seven locals voted over 90% to reject the offer by three of the largest supermarket operators in the country, Vons (Safeway-owned), Ralphs (Kroger-owned) and Albertsons and set up picket lines October 11, 2003.
The stakes in this conflict are high: a victory for management will give the green light to owners across the grocery store sector and beyond that it is possible to leave their workers without healthcare coverage. On the other hand, a worker victory will maintain standards for those under contract and indicate that other chains, including Wal-Mart, must take seriously employee determination to win fair treatment on this issue. It is understandable why both sides have been willing to hold out for so long.
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