Pickets in California grocery strike now cover distribution centers; strikes continue in two other regions

| Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Pickets lines have moved from retail locations to distribution centers in the Southern California grocery strike, media sources reported, creating a potential conundrum for long-haul drivers who deliver to the centers.

Land Line reported Oct. 17 that the strike on the West Coast at that point appeared to be centered on the retail stores, which meant the majority of truckers who would face picket lines will be those who work short-haul or locally.

However, The Arizona Republic reported recently that some truckers were honoring pickets lines that had formed at distribution centers linked to the chains covered by the strike.

In Southern California, more than 800 stores operated by Vons, Ralph's, Pavilions and Albertsons - roughly 60 percent of all groceries in the southern half of the state – are the target of a strike by 70,000 workers, media outlets reported. The strike, which centers on health benefits, started Sunday, Oct. 12.

Since the first grocery strike broke out, the action has spread to four other states.

In the St. Louis area, strikers have targeted more than 90 stores operated under the Schnuck's, Dierberg's and Shop & Save banners, local media outlets reported. According to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the strike started when more than 10,000 grocery workers who are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 655 struck one of the stores, Shop & Save. In response, that company and the other two chains locked out union workers. During the strike, the stores are using a combination of management and roughly 7,800 temporary replacement workers, The Post-Dispatch said.

The St. Louis strikers have been joined by workers in other unions, including auto workers, who are showing their support. That strike entered its ninth day Friday, Oct. 17.

Roughly 3,000 workers in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky joined the spreading strikes Oct. 13, picketing Kroger Co., the parent of California strike target Ralph's, after rejecting a contract offer, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

There is still no sign of relief in any of those strikes. However, efforts were under way late last week to try to resolve the Missouri conflict. Local media sources reported that Gov. Bob Holden of Missouri and a federal mediator were scheduled to meet with both sides to try to resolve the situation.

In addition, workers and management in another state avoided starting a strike in the first place.

The Republic reported Oct. 27 that members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 99 in Arizona have indefinitely extended their contract with Safeway and Fry's Food Stores, avoiding a strike by 14,000 workers in that state.

However, that doesn’t mean the strike won’t spread in the future. Although any action is a long time off, union officials representing workers in northern California now say their region may be next.

Contracts that cover members of UFCW Local 588 in Northern California are up in September, and representatives of that union told The Sacramento Bee the same economic forces that led to the southern conflict will leverage a similar conflict with the 28,000 workers in their region.

"Whatever happens down here, happens up there; it's going to be ugly," Tami Lewis, a representative from UFCW Local 588 in Northern California, told The Bee.

A strike by that local could spread all the way to the Oregon border, the newspaper said.

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