Santa did not stop at the picket lines this year, but with a little
help from colleagues and special friends, striking and locked-out
supermarket workers are making the best of the holiday season.
“It doesn’t feel like Christmas this year,” said Chris Imamura, a
produce clerk at a Ralphs store on San Fernando Boulevard. “It’s just
Imamura and others picketing outside of the Albertsons on Glenoaks
Boulevard in Glendale on Friday each pitched in a few dollars for
their Christmas Eve party, which included their picket signs, a few
large pizzas and a salad. It was a far cry from previous parties.
Picketers did not demonstrate on Christmas Day.
Since Oct. 11, Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons employees -- many who
work part time -- have been on strike in response to increased
medical insurance costs, which they claim will take big chunks out of
Representatives of the companies that own the markets say that in
an industry with low profit margins and intense competition from
big-box wholesalers and independent chains, employees must give up
more of their wages for medical benefits.
Raquel Hernandez, a service deli manager at a Burbank Ralphs who
picketed in Glendale on Friday, said being locked out of her place of
employment the past few months is taking its toll. Hernandez had to
tell her 11-year-old daughter that she had no gifts because the
family with seven children had to cut back on expenses.
“My little one was really sad,” Hernandez said. “It was the first
year with no presents.”
Fortunately, many picketers prepared themselves and their families
for a holiday season with a little less spirit and fewer material
“We cut down on expenses,” said Chuck Sheardown, an assistant
merchandiser at the Burbank Ralphs who was picketing at the Glendale
Albertsons. “But we are in debt now.”
Some picketers, though, said they could not send money home to
relatives living in other countries. Other families could not afford
But even as melancholy picketers lamented what they said were
further cuts in their strike pay, the holidays did bring an increased
awareness of things to be thankful for, some said.
A group of about 20 picketers at the Glenoaks Albertsons quickly
pointed to Irene Fulgoni, a retired 33-year employee of Albertsons
and its predecessor, Lucky.
Each day since Oct. 11, Fulgoni has filled the back of her minivan
with homemade cookies, muffins and warm drinks and driven from her
home in Eagle Rock to her former market to serve striking colleagues
she calls her friends.
“It’s important to show them that somebody cares,” she said.