Union leaders call for national boycott as California grocery strike drags on

| Thursday, December 18, 2003

A group of 500 union leaders from around the country has called for a national boycott of stores owned by Safeway Inc., The Associated Press reported today.

Officials of the grocery company did not comment, the news service said, and further details of the proposed action were not available.

The announcement came as four Southern California grocery companies and the United Food and Commercial Workers prepare to resume negotiations Dec. 19 on how to end a strike by roughly 70,000 workers.

The labor dispute, which centers on health care benefits, started Oct. 21 and covers more than 800 Southern California stores operated by Vons, Ralph's, Pavilions and Albertsons. Those stores make up roughly 60 percent of all groceries in the southern half of the state.

The California labor action soon spread, with grocery workers in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky going on strike soon after. While those strikes were under way, labor disputes started to flare up in other parts of the nation. Federal mediators were able to either end or avoid strikes in several locations, and the action in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky ended a week ago when workers and Kroger, the operator of the 44 stores targeted by that action, reached an agreement.