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Strike support picks up steam

Robert Chacon

Teamsters who stopped making deliveries to three local grocery chains

in support of striking supermarket workers said they are trying to

preserve a way of life.

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About 9,000 drivers, warehouse workers and clerks in Southern

California began striking earlier this week.

Dozens of truck drivers from Teamsters Local 630 have been

picketing outside a Ralphs distribution center on Edenhurst Avenue

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along Glendale’s western border, and with striking grocery clerks

earlier this week, were able to turn away several black vans full of

replacement drivers.

Gathering around the vans and blocking their entrance onto the

warehouse lot, the picketers shouted and criticized the occupants

sitting behind tinted windows.

The site is the closest Ralphs distribution center to Burbank.

The Teamsters will not deliver groceries to Ralphs, Vons and

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Albertsons markets until the companies and the supermarket union

reach an agreement.

“You haven’t seen anything like this for a long time, two

unrelated unions coming together,” Teamster shop steward Tim McGann

said. “If we give in, we’ll be working for Wal-Mart.”

McGann’s comments were directed at the nonunion retail giant,

which offers a wage and benefits package that is typically $10 an

hour less than unionized market chains, according to reports.

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Health-care coverage is the main issue in the United Food and

Commercial Workers union’s conflict with Safeway Inc., which owns

Vons, as well as Albertsons Inc. and Ralphs owner Kroger Co.

With their contract expiring in two years, McGann and other

Teamsters said the companies will try to cut their benefits next if

they succeed in scaling back health benefits for grocery clerks.

“We’re not educated people. This is the only way we can make a

decent living,” McGann said. “If we don’t back [the grocery workers],

we’re dead.”

A Vons spokeswoman did not return a phone call for comment.

The show of solidarity from Teamsters bolstered the spirits of

striking supermarket workers, who have entered their seventh week of

the strike.

“This is going to tighten the noose on the markets,” striker

Darren Brown said, as he picketed outside Vons on Buena Vista Street

in Burbank.

Grocery strikers have been making less than $200 a week, paid for

from a union strike fund. Many have said that they will take extra

jobs if they need to, but they will continue to strike to maintain

their health benefits.

“It’s really tight now, I don’t know how much longer I can keep

sending my daughter money in Mexico,” said Myra Carrola, a clerk at

Vons on Pass Avenue in Burbank. Carrola’s daughter stays with her

grandmother.

Still, she will strike as long as she can, she said.


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