Santa Monicans might soon be forced with a choice: Cross picket lines at Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons or shop elsewhere.
Ralphs said Friday afternoon it would shut down all of its Southern California stores if grocery workers go on strike, according to a report on The San Diego Union-Tribune website.
“If there is a strike, Ralphs will initially close all of our stores,” Kendra Doyel, spokeswoman for the chain, told the Union-Tribune. “During a strike, it is difficult to create a good shopping experience for our customers and a good working environment for our employees.”
After months of negotiations, on Thursday night, the grocery workers' union moved a step closer to calling a strike. It gave three-day notice to cancel its contract, according to a statement from labor leaders.
Canceling the contract removes the final barrier to a strike. If a deal can’t be reached by 7 p.m. Sunday, a strike can be called at any time.
In Santa Monica, Albertsons has two locations ( and ), Vons has two ( and ) and Ralphs has one ().
The United Food and Commercial Workers represents 62,000 employees of the Albertsons, Vons and Ralphs grocery stores in Southern California. Management and labor leaders have been at the bargaining table trying to reach a deal on a new contract for eight months.
They have been working under the terms of a contract that was extended after it expired in March.
“We’re ready to fight to preserve good jobs,” union leaders said in a statement. “We understand this is a tough economy, but we’re willing to stand up for workers everywhere being taken advantage of by profitable corporations. It is unfair and wrong for these corporations doing so well to use the economy as an excuse to squeeze those working paycheck to paycheck.”
Vons released a statement in response to the action:
We are disappointed by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Locals’ decision to give the employers 72 hour notice of the cancellation of the contract extension. Doing so needlessly alarms our employees and our customers.
The notice does not mean a strike is imminent or that a strike will necessarily occur at any point. The notice simply allows the union the ability to call a strike if they choose to do so. Vons and the other employers intend to remain focused on the negotiation process and urge the unions to do so the same.
Union negotiators want the stores to pay the same share of their health care benefits as in the past. But their opponents want the employees to pay up to 80 percent of the costs, according to the head of the UFCW in San Diego, Mickey Kasparian.
He said in June that the issue was the same as the one that prompted a 141-day strike in 2003-04.
In mid-June, Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons announced that they had . The labor organization had been negotiating pension packages with the grocery stores. Specifics on the pension agreement were not released at the time of the agreement.
Hoa Quach and City News Service contributed to this report.
This article was originally published on La Mesa Patch.
This article was updated at 4:04 p.m.