Grocery store workers throughout Los Angeles have scheduled a strike vote for March 21 following the breakdown of negotiations between various unions and the corporate owners of Ralphs and Vons/Pavilions/Albertsons.

According to The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), contracts with over 60,000 grocery workers expired on March 6. Negotiations between the two parties broke down on the same day and no additional negotiation sessions have been scheduled.

Grocery clerks, meat cutters, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, among other employees working at Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions, Stater Bros., and Gelson’s are covered by separate contracts. These essential workers are represented by UFCW Locals 8GS, 135, 324, 770, 1167, 1428, and 1442, spanning from central California to the Mexican border.

Various unions will hold individual strike votes starting March 21 and any action that may result will depend on the results of those votes.

“When the pandemic hit, we showed up to make sure our communities were fed. We put our health and our families’ health at risk – and now the corporate CEOs who hid in their offices and profited off of our sacrifice refuse to share the success and make our stores safer,” said Rachel Fournier, a 17-year Ralphs employee. “Now they are playing dirty and violating our rights. We have no choice but to stand up for ourselves and our families.”

John Votava, Director of Corporate Affairs for Kroger’s Ralphs division said the company has hopes to avoid a strike.

“A strike authorization vote doesn’t mean a strike will happen, but it does create unnecessary concern for our associates and communities, at a time when we should be coming together in good faith bargaining to find solutions and compromise. At Ralphs we remain focused on settling a deal with the UFCW,” he said. “We have three very clear objectives; to put more money in our associates paychecks, keep groceries affordable for our customers and to maintain a sustainable future for our business. By working together, we win together.”

In a statement, UFCW Local 770 said grocery workers filed Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges with the federal government’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Ralphs and Vons/Albertsons/Pavilions for violating labor laws by surveilling, intimidating, and interfering with employees for engaging in union activity, failing to bargain over bonuses offered to employees and improperly subcontracting employees’ work to outside contractors, among other labor law violations.

NLRB charges against Stater Bros. were also filed after management was accused of violating federal labor law by attempting to negotiate with individual members and delaying negotiations.

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...