Jose Felix, 33, a deli clerk at Ralphs supermarket at 25 E. Alameda
Ave., has seen too much of the 99-Cent Only Store recently.
But living on the cheap has become a necessity for him, his wife
and their daughter.
His company check, usually just less than $300 after taxes, will
not come Friday. And that has Felix, who lives in Sun Valley, worried
as he remains locked out of his store for a second week.
“My wife is stressed about the fact that I’m not working,” he
said. “I sense her tension.”
The lack of a check will be the first since the lockout at Ralphs
and Albertsons, following the strike that began at Vons on Oct. 11.
At home, his wife must work overtime to make ends meet.
“It is more of a hardship than anything,” he said. “My wife can
only work for so much.”
But Felix and several others braved the prospect of no pay
Tuesday, adding they will picket as long as they can.
Negotiations have been suspended in the grocery strike, the first
in the region in 25 years. Local workers join 70,000 others from the
three chains at more than 850 stores from central California to San
Issues include managements’ shifting burden of health-care costs
to workers and a new-hire system in which they would work for less.
Workers said the proposed wage system shortchanges new hires,
increases health-care contribution costs for employees and cuts
retirement benefits. Many of the workers are part-timers, who say
they could not survive with deeper cuts in their checks.
“I’m juggling right now, but the later this thing goes on, it’s
going to get difficult,” said Cheryl Hughes, an assistant merchandise
manager at Ralphs for 20 years and a single mother.
Hughes’ daughter, Mena, 17, also works at a Ralphs in Los Angeles.
She, too, is picketing.
“The doors remain open for the union to come back to the
bargaining table,” Ralphs spokesman Terry O’Neil said. “We need to be
able to control our costs if we are going to remain competitive. If
they don’t come back with that realization, then this labor dispute
could go on for quite a while.”
O’Neil said workers are beginning to feel the heat of no pay as
customers begin to trickle past picket lines.
“This is a hardship on our employees,” O’Neil said. “They won’t
get paid this Friday. There is a concern out there that reality is
UFCW officials agreed that strikes are rough. But, they added,
this one is necessary.
“Strikes are hard,” UFCW spokeswoman Barbara Maynard said. “It’s
like in battle, you have your ups and downs, and times when morale is
strong and not as strong.”