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California grocery workers gain support from other labor groups

LOS ANGELES, CA -- JULY 01, 2019: John Grant, president of UFCW 770, stands with members of UFCW and
John Grant, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, stands with members of UFCW and other unions as he argues for better pay for its members. The UFCW approved a strike motion Monday afternoon.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Grocery workers bracing for a potential strike received support from other key labor organizations Monday.

Leaders from unions affiliated with the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which represents 800,000 workers and their families, voted to endorse a strike by grocery workers while contract negotiations continue. The unions include those representing teachers, law enforcement and healthcare workers.

Beyond demonstrating solidarity from workers in other industries, this means that if a strike does occur, truck drivers, warehouse workers and other laborers can honor picket lines and protests without violating their own contracts, said Mike Shimpock, a spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 in L.A.

“What this vote means today is that 800,000 workers and their families will throw their support behind our workers and our fight to get their families sustainable wages and benefits in our next contract,” Shimpock said.

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Stalled contract negotiations between the grocery chains and the UFCW have raised the possibility of another grocery strike similar to the historic one that occurred in California nearly 15 years ago.

Grocery workers at Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions and Ralphs have been working without a contract since the last one expired in March and are seeking better wages and to preserve their healthcare and retirement plans.

Last week, members of seven UFCW locals covering Southern and Central California voted overwhelmingly to allow leaders to call a strike — 96% of those who voted said yes. However, leaders may not actually call a strike and have more talks scheduled with the chains from July 10 to 12.

One group that voted in favor of the sanction Monday was the Teamsters, a national union with local chapters that represent workers in different industries, but primarily freight drivers and warehouse workers.

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During the last strike in 2003 and 2004, the national Teamsters chapter ordered its 8,000 drivers and workers at 10 warehouses in Southern and Central California to honor picket lines at grocery stores while they attempted to make deliveries.

A Teamsters spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday’s vote.

The UFCW is holding a rally for grocery workers and community members in Santa Barbara on Tuesday and another one in Los Angeles on July 9, where members will deliver letters of support to management at the grocery stores.

If an agreement cannot be reached, a strike could affect roughly 60,000 grocery union employees from San Luis Obispo to San Diego.


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