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Latest News - December 2011

December 12, 2011
Food 4 Less strike looms
Source: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
By: Andrew Edwards

Workers for Food 4 Less grocery stores in Southern California have given their leaders power to call a strike if they cannot reach a new collective bargaining agreement with their employers.

Seven local chapters of United and Food and Commercial announced results of the strike authorization vote on Friday. The vote does not necessarily mean that Food 4 Less workers will strike, but adds the threat of a work stoppage to negotiators' arsenal of bargaining tactics.

In separate negotiations earlier this year, the grocery union's members authorized strikes against three supermarkets, but the union and employers reached an eleventh-hour deal that averted a work stoppage.

In that agreement, the union and Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons reached an accord after struggling for months to find common ground on health care costs.

The sticking point in the Food 4 Less negotiations, UFCW leaders said, is the disparity in pay and benefits between Food 4 Less employees and their counterparts who work for Ralphs.

Cincinnati-based Kroger owns Food 4 Less and Ralphs.

A union leader and a Kroger spokeswoman both said Friday that their respective sides wish to avoid a strike, although the difference between the two sides' positions seems to be wide.

"What Food 4 Less has put on the table is unacceptable," said Connie Leyva, president of the UFCW local representing workers in the Pomona and Ontario areas.

"They are offering Food 4 Less workers less than what they are offering the Ralphs workers," she continued.

A checker earning the top pay rate at Ralphs would make $19.55 per hour.

By contrast, a top checker at Food 4 Less would earn $16.55 per hour, and a $2 to $3 difference in pay rates at both chains is common for other positions, she said.

Ralphs and Food 4 Less are different format stores. Whereas Ralphs is a traditional store, Food 4 Less is more like a warehouse store where customers can shop for bulk items sold at a discount.

In previous contract negotiations, UFCW leaders have been more willing to accept differences in pay at the two chains in order to give Kroger a chance to test the Food 4 Less model.

Leyva said that since Food 4 Less has proven to be a successful concept, the union asserts that Kroger can afford more generous pay packages.

Regarding the pay issue, Kroger spokeswoman Kendra Doyel wrote the chain is still willing to talk.

"While Food 4 Less has a completely different business model than traditional grocery stores, we continue to discuss wages and other items at the negotiation table," Doyel wrote.

The union and Kroger's next meeting is set for Dec. 27, Leyva said.

Food 4 Less locations

Inland Empire and High Desert locations include the following stores:

Apple Valley, 20801 Bear Valley Outer Hwy S.

Chino, 4024 Grand Ave.

Colton, 1150 N Pepper Ave.

Fontana, 16991 Valley Blvd.

Highland, 26529 Highland Ave.

Ontario, 2246 S Euclid Ave.

Pomona, 2090 S. Garey Ave.

Rancho Cucamonga, 12879 Foothill Blvd.

Redlands, 2070 W. Redlands Blvd.

Rialto, 1410 W Foothill Blvd.

San Bernardino, 555 W. 2nd St.

Victorville, 16266 Bear Valley Rd.

Victorville, 14738 La Paz Dr.



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