Food for Less grocery workers and the Kroger Corporation backed away from the edge of a cliff Tuesday, following weeks of a labor standoff. Both sides averted a potentially devastating strike with a tentative labor agreement whose proposed contract covers some 6,500 workers at 90 stores throughout Southern California.
Employees authorized a strike in July and then launched a consumer boycott in the face of Kroger’s threat to slash contributions to medical plans, reduce hours and transfer the work of higher-paid employees to those lower on the wage scale.
In mid-August hundreds of workers turned out on informational picket lines and urged consumers to shop elsewhere. During this time, Kroger recruited strike-busters from Ralphs, another grocery chain it owns.
Why did Kroger refuse to budge? The Cincinnati-based Fortune 500 Company that owns Food 4 Less, Ralphs and Frys recorded a half-billion-dollar profit for the first quarter of 2014,
On Wednesday grocery shoppers at Food 4 Less stores throughout the Southland were met with smiles, picket signs and a message from the supermarket chain’s employees and supporters: Please don’t shop at Food 4 Less until its parent company, Kroger Company, signs a new union contract.
The most recent collective bargaining agreement between Food 4 Less and its workers expired June 8 and employees are concerned about work-standards reductions and a potential undercutting of medical benefits for 6,500 workers at 90 Southern California stores.
Kroger’s proposals include axing hours across the board and reducing company payments into employee health and welfare funds. The Cincinnati-based company recorded a half-billion-dollar profit for the first quarter of 2014.
At the Highland Park store on Figueroa near Avenue 52, Maribel Garcia, a United Food and Commercial Workers organizer, was unfazed by the August heat. She was still energetic after eight hours in the parking lot asking shoppers to support the boycott by seeking their groceries elsewhere.
Union grocery workers at Food 4 Less don’t want to Work 4 Less. That’s the message they’ll be delivering today (August 13) at 14 Southern California stores as they press the chain for a new contract. Their most recent collective bargaining agreement expired June 8 and Food 4 Less, which is owned by Ralph’s parent company, Kroger, wants to cut health and welfare contributions, along with work hours — while dumping more work on lower-paid employees.
For that reason the 90 stores’ 6,500 workers, who belong to Local 770 of the United Food & Commercial Workers union, have called on shoppers to boycott the chain. They also invite the public to “adopt” a Food 4 Less store and join them on picket lines Wednesday from 8 a.m. to noon.