Grocery Store Chains, Unions Back at Negotiating Table

Unions and grocery store representatives went back to the bargaining table on Wednesday, just days after the union members overwhelming voted to authorize a strike.

"At this point a strike is authorized but that doesn't mean there will be one," said Brad Chase, spokesman for Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons grocery chains.

Southern California union members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union voted overwhelmingly, a reported over 90 percent, to authorize a strike.

"Over half our members voted," said Michael Shimpock, union spokesman.

Shimpock said that although employees remember the hardship of the strike in 2003, they feel strongly about their right to strike. In 2003, the longest grocery store strike in U.S. history occurred costing grocery stores more than $1 billion in lost sales.

"I think the [strong support] is because the grocery store chains made $8.3 billion in profits last year," Shimpock said.

According to Shimpock, the last strike was devastating. The employees worked with the supermarket chains to get customers back and the profits indicate they have been successful.

"Our employees know what is successful for the market is successful for them," he said.

However now employees feel that they are not sharing in that success, Shimpock said.

"People are frustrated," he said.

Chase and Shimpock are hopeful that negotiations will be positive.

"Its encouraging that we have returned to the negotiating table," Chase said.

Both sides remember the strike and the personal and financial devastation. "One thing we took out of that is nobody wins in a strike," Chase said.

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