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Here's an update on what's happening in the Southern California grocery strike/lockout.

New talks have not been scheduled in the battle between the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the region's three biggest grocers - Safeway (which owns Vons), Kroger (which owns Ralphs), and Albertsons - were looking for $1 billion in cuts. The most recent discussions collapsed before Christmas.

The strike/lockout, which began in early October, affects some 70,000 employees.

  • Reuters reports that the UFCW is suing Ralphs, charging that the company has been secretly hiring back selected workers under false names and Social Security numbers.

    The UFCW says that it has evidence that between 50 to 100 striking worker were secretly hired back and then told to use fictitious names and Social Security numbers or those of their minor children.

    Ralphs and its parent company, Kroger, were not commenting on the allegations at this posting.

  • The Associated Press reports that while the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) expanded its picket lines to Northern California almost two months ago in an effort to put pressure on chain management to be less intransigent during negotiations, the effort by and large hasn't worked.

    There have been some 50 picket lines set up around the Bay Area, but the "message seems to be lost on shoppers here, the best-informed of whom are only peripherally aware of the strike in Southern California."

    Of course, the strife in Northern California could become a little more evident when contracts with the UFCW there run out later this year. And, in the meantime, the AP reports that UFCW workers in Northern California and elsewhere "may be asked soon not to cross picket lines set up by Southern California workers," in essence expanding the strike to areas of the country where there is no labor dispute.

  • The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that one of the major concerns of picketers who are protesting against Southern California's three major grocery chains is the proliferation of automated checkout machines, which many union workers feel is a significant threat to their job security.

    "The machines are not any faster than human checkers," the paper wrote. "But retailers, the technology firms that make the machines and some retail industry analysts are quick to tout the many virtues of automatic self checkout: shorter lines, more engaged shoppers and, to the dismay of grocery workers and the union that represents them, labor savings."

    One particularly damning comment comes from a technology consultant, who told the Union-Tribune, "A cashier is not generating income. They are more a cost of doing business."

  • Published reports say that striking and locked out employees in Southern California will have health insurance through the end of January, a month longer than originally believed.

KC's View:
We would refer you to the first point we made in our essay above - that it is time to find new and common ground, and to stop refighting old battles that don't do anything to help anyone compete against Wal-Mart.