Grocery unions may strike

The Associated Press
Thursday August 30, 2001


SAN FRANCISCO — Nine unions representing workers at Safeway and Albertson’s stores in Northern California are in negotiations with the companies regarding new contracts – with a possible strike looming in the background. 

The supermarkets have put up signs advertising for help in the event of a strike, which could involve as many as 22,000 workers in stores from Fresno and San Francisco to the Oregon border. 

“We are preparing for a possible labor dispute,” said Debra Lambert, Safeway’s national spokeswoman. “We’ve posted signs in stores for temporary replacement workers.” 

United Food and Commercial Workers’ officials said they are requesting wage increases of a minimum of $1 an hour to offset the area’s high housing costs, as well as the maintenance of pension and health benefits. 

“Economics are a huge part of the negotiations,” said union spokesman Ron Lind.  

“The stores have been touting a recent contract agreement which had a 50-cent (per hour) wage increase. That type of increase isn’t going to be enough.” 

The high cost of living in the Bay Area and other parts of Northern California is a major concern for the workers, according to union consultant Phil Tucker. 

The union also is requesting that some part-time jobs be turned into full-time jobs, Lind said. 

Lambert would not discuss details of a possible contract proposal, but said prior settlements, such as the 50-cent agreement recently reached with Local 588, do “typically set precedent.” 

In 1997, the Local 588 contract was ratified by Bay Area unions, Lambert said.  

Northern California unions did not ratify the most recent Local 588 contract, which was agreed upon in July. 

Current contracts expire Sept. 1, but Tucker said the deadline could be extended indefinitely. depending on when the companies present proposals and when the unions vote on them. 

“Negotiations are ongoing,” said Lind. “A strike this weekend is unlikely. But we are prepared if the stores’ proposals are unsatisfactory.”