Grocery stores in other parts of U.S. to be picketed in support of California strike

| Thursday, January 22, 2004

The AFL-CIO is calling on its members across the United States to take actions against the three grocery chains under a strike since October. Those actions will include bringing picket lines to markets outside the strike area.

The California conflict, 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, and more than 70,000 workers are taking part.

In a statement Jan. 20, the AFL-CIO said it would focus efforts on community support and “intense education of Safeway shoppers” nationwide. Safeway is the parent company of Vons, a strike target along with Ralphs, owned by Krogers, and Albertsons, a national chain based in Idaho.

“We’re bringing the pickets to new markets, additional markets other than Southern California,” Sarah Massey, a spokeswoman for the AFL-CIO, told Land Line.

“We have brought pickets to the Bay Area and Seattle previously, and those I think are definitely markets we’re looking at,” she added. “Anywhere where Safeway has a big market, we’re going to look at.”

At this point, Massey said, the pickets are planning only for grocery store locations, and will not include distribution centers.

The expansion was announced at a meeting of union leaders from more than 50 cities and officials of the United Food and Commercial Workers. 

The Associated Press reported recently that the AFL-CIO had assigned two of its top leaders to coordinate national strategy in support of the strike. Richard Trumka, the labor group’s secretary treasurer, and Ron Judd, another to AFL-CIO official, will coordinate activities outside the strike zone and contact executives of the national firms behind the California chains.

The grocery worker strike in Southern California has dragged on despite numerous attempts to end it.

The last was a round of secret negotiations between union officials and representatives of Vons, Albertsons and Ralphs that occurred earlier this month. Unlike previous gatherings, this one did not include a federal mediator. However, like others, it ended with no settlement.

Several other labor actions, some targeting the same corporations as the California strike, were either averted, or started and were settled since the California strike began.

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor

Mark Reddig can be reached at mark_reddig@landlinemag.com.

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