STAKES GET HIGHER IN GROCERY LABOR TALKS.Byline: JULIA M. SCOTT
Grocery executives bogged down in negotiations with unions in Southern California Southern California, also colloquially known as SoCal, is the southern portion of the U.S. state of California. Centered on the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego, Southern California is home to nearly 24 million people and is the nation's second most populated region, face more contract talks in the months ahead.
In the next six months, a number of contracts covering 50,000 United Food and Commercial Workers The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union is a labor union representing approximately 1.4 million workers in the United States and Canada in many industries, including agriculture, health care, meatpacking, poultry and food processing, manufacturing, textile and up and down the West Coast are set to expire, adding to the 70,000 UFCW UFCW United Food and Commercial Workers workers demanding a new contract here. Contracts for an additional 280,000 grocery workers across the nation will expire this calendar year.
Many of the union locals are negotiating with Safeway, which operates Vons, Ralphs' parent company Kroger, and Albertson's, which is owned by Supervalu.
The timing, which the union says gives them an edge, is not a coincidence.
"It's the only way we can have a big impact anymore on an employer that is so large," said United Food and Commercial Workers spokeswoman Amber Sparks. "We're not negotiating with small regional companies anymore."
Grocery workers across the country are putting pressure on their employers by demanding good wages and health benefits in e-mails and at press conferences, Sparks said.
In Southern California, the grocery contract originally expired March 5 and now is renewed daily with an option for either side to cancel it with 72-hours' notice. Progress has been slow and major issues like health care and wages remain unresolved.
Grocery locals here worked with Teamsters Teamsters
large, powerful union of U. S. truckers. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 2703]
See : Labor to leaflet the chains and enlisted the backing of elected officials. Stalling until other contracts expire may help the union get what they want and avoid a strike like the 139-day ordeal three years ago.
Adena Tessler, a spokeswoman for Vons, Ralphs, and Albertson's in Southern California, said open contracts in various regions will not affect discussions here.
"These companies are used to these negotiations being ongoing," Tessler said. "Through the years they always have multiple negotiations going on across the country at all times."
A contract covering some 20,000 grocery workers in Seattle is set to expire June 1. In September and October, contracts covering an additional 30,000 grocery workers expire. Contracts in Houston, Ohio Houston is an unincorporated community in northern Loramie Township, Shelby County, Ohio, United States. It has a post office, the Countryside Market, and a grain elevator. It is home to Houston High School, which serves grades 7-12 and has approximately 400 students. , Oregon, and Montana are also up for renewal.
Having so many contracts come up at the same time could speed up talks or bring them to a standstill standstill /stand·still/ (stand´stil?) cessation of activity, as of the heart (cardiac s.) or chest (respiratory s.) .
Complete cessation of activity or progress. . Employers may rush one deal to avoid overlapping negotiations, or they could hit the brakes as their calendar fills up with bargaining sessions across the country.
For the grocery unions to be successful, they will have to coordinate what each local will accept at the bargaining table and be able to unleash mass boycotts, said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the Center for Labor Research and Education at University of California at Berkeley (body, education) University of California at Berkeley - (UCB)
See also Berzerkley, BSD.
Note to British and Commonwealth readers: that's /berk'lee/, not /bark'lee/ as in British Received Pronunciation. .
"The companies draw on their national resources and its important that the workers can do that as well," Jacobs said.
On the other hand, more open contracts could translate into disaster for the unions, said Jack Kyser, chief economist The Chief Economist is a single position job class having primary responsibility for the development, coordination, and production of economic and financial analysis. It is distinguished from the other economist positions by the broader scope of responsibility encompassing the of the Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. County Economic Development Corp.
"I don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)
"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party. if it has much of an impact on Southern California," Kyser said, "but it definitely shows that the union has an awful lot of people at potential risk."