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From the Los Angeles Times:

"Grocery workers across Southern California began voting Monday on whether to authorize a strike against Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions in an effort to pressure the companies to raise wages.

"More than 47,000 workers at 500 stores are eligible to vote over five days, with the result expected to be announced Sunday.

"A three-year contract between the United Food and Commercial Workers and Kroger, the parent company of Ralphs, and Albertsons, which owns Vons and Pavilions, expired March 6."

The story notes that negotiations collapsed two weeks ago, with John Grant, president of UFCW Local 770 saying that he believes that "the companies wanted to see if workers are going to stand up and ask for the contract they deserve.”  But, he said, “I have never seen such militancy. It’s like we’ve walked through hell and can’t stop now.”

The Times writes that "this month, the union filed complaints of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the companies of illegal intimidation, including videotaping of workers at rallies and when they presented petitions to managers. The companies gave employees a one-time $100 bonus, which the union called a 'bribe' to influence the negotiations, and they failed to provide necessary information for negotiations, according to the filings with the NLRB."

According to the Times, "the companies are offering the highest tier of grocery workers — full-time checkers with five years of experience who make $22.50 an hour — a 60-cent annual increase over three years … Grant called the proposed wage hike 'paltry,' especially given high inflation, and far less than the companies recently agreed to in Oregon and Colorado. The union proposes a raise of $2 the first year of the contract for the highest-paid workers, $1.50 in the second year and $1.50 in the third year, with larger increases for lower-wage workers."

KC's View:

I'm not qualified to say what an appropriate raise would be, but I would suggest that management has to think about the word "essential," which was tossed around a lot during the pandemic as defining both the stores they operate and the people they employ.

To paraphrase writer Finley Peter Dunne, labor negotiations ain't beanbag.  I get that.  

But if stores are going to continue to create the perception - and, perhaps, even the reality - of being essential, I think they have to foster an environment of investment in workers.  Otherwise, it is just a word.