Healthcare on the Line in Grocery Talks

May 9, 2007: The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) is negotiating new contracts that cover 65,000 grocery workers at Albertsons, Vons, and Ralphs in southern California.

The grocery chains are gearing up for a possible strike, and Teamsters need to be ready to support the clerks.

Healthcare is the big issue in the negotiations. The UFCW lost a 141-day strike against the grocery chains in 2004, and the union agreed to inferior healthcare coverage for new hires to end the strike. Under the current agreement, only 29 percent of new hires are eligible for coverage—and only seven percent of new hires actually get covered.

“We need to stick together with our UFCW brothers and sisters,” said Frank Halstead, a Ralphs warehouse worker in Teamster Local 572. “If the chains get away with more healthcare cuts, it’s only a matter of time before they come after our Teamster benefits.”

The chains have formed a mutual-defense pact. If the union strikes at one of the chains, the other two chains will lock out UFCW members within 48 hours.
“The companies are united. We should be too,” Halstead said. “We have to stand up and say we won’t cross UFCW picket lines. Our future is on the line.”

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