Schools feel sting of grocery strike

Molly Shore

With the grocery strike entering its fourth month, striking and

locked-out workers aren't the only ones feeling the pinch.

Several Burbank schools are getting shortchanged by the strike

because fundraising efforts through eScrip -- a program returning a

portion of the stores' receipts to schools -- have dropped off as

shoppers refuse to cross picket lines at Vons and Pavilions.

"I know it's not as good as it was," PTA Council President Sonia

Arcesaid. "We don't get an accurate account of what the supermarkets

are giving us until 60 days after the end of the month, but I've

heard that at Emerson [Elementary School], it's half of what it was."

Mary Anne Wassem, Emerson's PTA president, said that in November

2002, the school received $589, but this year's October transactions

only amounted to $153.

It's a "no-win" situation, said Wassem, who added that parents and

especially teachers who are union members refuse to cross the

markets' picket lines.

Jefferson Elementary School's Booster Club hasn't received any

money from eScrip, while money raised by the PTA is down about 33% at

Jordan Middle School and 70% at Muir Middle School, Arce said.

When a school registers with the San Mateo-based company eScrip,

shoppers can request that a portion of their total bill be donated to

the school. All the money that has been generated by the eScrip

electronic program has gone into Emerson's general PTA fund, Wassem

said.

"The association decides what we want to spend the money on," she

said. Some of the money pays for buses for field trips that the

district no longer funds. It also pays for art programs, Wassem said.

Joanne Remillard, executive vice president of eScrip, said Vons

and parent company Safeway are the largest electronic scrip

contributors in the state.

"They've committed up to $20 million annually," Remillard said.

"That's a huge commitment."

Schools, which are paid on a monthly basis year-round, have become

used to receiving the money, she said.

Calls to a Vons representative were not returned.

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