retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that “the United Food and Commercial Workers union is holding a strike authorization vote next week and warning its members to be prepared in case they have to walk off the job.”

The most recent contract - signed in 2007 after a long strike and lockout - expired on March 6, and the negotiations cover “about 62,000 grocery workers in Southern California, including those employed by Ralphs, which is owned by Kroger Co.; Safeway Inc., which owns Vons and Pavilions stores; and Albertsons, which is owned by SuperValu Inc.”

According to the story, “Notifications announcing the April 20 vote date and seven voting locations were emailed to members and posted at stores Thursday.

“For the strike authorization measure to pass, at least two-thirds of the union voters participating have to support it. Approval of the measure does not necessarily mean that there will be a strike, but union leaders say it would give them a stronger negotiating position.

“Contract talks between the union and three of the region's leading grocery retailers have been sluggish for months, as both sides debate employee wages, healthcare benefits and pensions. The contract is now being extended on a day-by-day basis. Either side can cancel the agreement with 72 hours' notice.

“Both sides are expected to return to the bargaining table April 26.”
KC's View:
It doesn’t speak well about the possibilities that the vote is taking place six days before negotiations resume.

I also find it hard to believe that two-thirds of affected employees will vote in favor of a strike after two years of recessionary living, and in a state where the economy has been worse than in many other places.