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Thousands of retail clerks in Southern California, workers for Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions, and Ralph’s grocery stores, overwhelmingly approved their union to organize a strike, if needed, in the near future. Their union’s contract with the grocery store chains expired in March.

The balloting took place by members of Local #135 of the United Food & Commercial Workers on June 24 and 25, at the union’s Mission Valley and San Marcos offices. “The vote was approved,” said a union spokesperson on June 26.

Local union members joined with 29,000 other grocery workers from 532 stores in Southern California, in support of a strike.

In front of the Ralph’s store on Aveineda Encinas in South Carlsbad, Seth from Leucadia said, if the labor action is called, he would support the strikers by going to Sprouts or Trader Joe’s. “It does create a tricky situation, “ he said. “I guess we’d be, in essence, crossing the picket line by going to those non-union stores.”

Mark from Oceanside, on his lunch break, said a strike would not change his shopping habits. “I’ll still shop here,” he said, as he quickly grabbed a sandwich.

Susan from Carlsbad is a retried grocery store union worker. She said she will absolutely support the strikers by not shopping at Ralph’s, but at other union grocery chains. Gelson’s, Food 4 Less, and Stater Brothers are union stores, but not involved in the current contract negotiations.

The last major SoCal grocery strike was in 2003. It was expected to last a few days. It ended up lasting almost five months, and some workers gave up their careers and sought other employment. Some strikers stood fast with the union.

The general feeling in the industry is the grocery stores owners won the 2003 strike, with workers able to maintain their income and benefits, but not gaining any.

Unlike previous threats of labor actions, the three grocery stores I visited didn’t yet have signs advising of possible temporary employment opportunities should a strike be called.

Representatives from Albertsons/Vons and Ralph’s and the unions have scheduled several more meetings in July.

The grocery industry points out that times have changed dramatically since 2003. Once the leaders in the grocery business, the big three chains must now complete for the consumer’s food dollar with Walmart, Target, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, 99 Cent Only, and Dollar Tree stores.

The Encinitas Vons, at 262 North El Camino Real, was one of four stores in the 2003 strike where the union would call for large rallies and protests for the TV cameras.

On June 27, just a block down the street, ALDI’s Encinitas store will open – the sixth ALDI’s location in San Diego County, one of 200 new ADLI’s opening soon in the U.S. By the end of 2020, the German-owned, non-union stores plan to move up to become the third largest grocery chain in the U.S.

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Comments

Visduh June 26, 2019 @ 4:10 p.m.

One powerhouse of an alternative is Winco; so far it doesn't have all that many outlets in the region, but it is adding them. Locally there is one in San Marcos and another in Oceanside. There is also Grocery Outlet. That previous strike was nasty. Pickets and their supporters, such as family members, were doing stupid things like blocking traffic to other stores, and even trying to block streets. Just what they thought that would accomplish isn't clear to me at all. I always thought both sides lost that confrontation. The stores lost customers who never came back and the strikers lost months of wages. The Ralphs store on Melrose in Vista/Oceanside was a fairly sharp operation prior to the strike; afterward the better staffers were gone, and the place just lost its edge. Any connection with that deterioration and the fact that the store was shuttered 2-3 years ago?

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Ponzi June 26, 2019 @ 5:54 p.m.

I don’t care if they strike. I don’t care if they close stores. I don’t care if they lose their jobs.

After Albertson’s merged with Vons their prices have gone up and many favorite items have been discontinued. I used to buy wine that would be $3.00 to $8.00 discounts, now they discount the same variety $1.00. You have to buy six bottles to save another 10%.

Then there are the lines and the employees. The check-out lines suck. They used to have signs that said “3’s A Crowd.” Well those signs are gone and they may have two check stands open with several people with full baskets checking out. It takes me 5 minutes to pick up what I want and 15 minutes to get out. The workers are deliberately slow (at least I assume they are, if not brain dead). None of them could ever keep a job at Trader Joe’s or Costco. They are too slooow and talk to each other usually ignoring the customer.

Then there are the prices. Albertson’s and Von’s are a rip-off. Just the other day I was buying some wine and planning to make lasagna for dinner. I saw a 32 oz. container of Galbani Ricotta Cheese while I shopped at Albertson’s, it was “on sale” marked down $2.50, from $8.49 to $5.99. I thought well $2.50 is a decent savings. My next stop was at the Walmart Neighborhood market and out of curiosity I checked the price of the same 32 oz. container of Galbani Ricotta Cheese and its regular Walmart price was $3.98. So just one item, Albertson’s screwed me out of $2.01

I don’t shop there for much of anything because I cannot stand the selection, the high prices and the lazy, unhelpful employees. Those high prices are paying for all this union B.S.

None

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Visduh June 26, 2019 @ 7:47 p.m.

Hey, well stated. Their pricing is off the scale for many items. With all these other sources, it's a wonder that they have any custom remaining. Oh, when I expanded the list of alternative stores, I plumb forgot Smart & Final. Fifteen-plus years ago it was a "kinda" cash-and-carry wholesale combined with club store-style operation. In the past few years it has morphed into a downscale supermarket. But it is another store to go to when/if the legacy supers are shut down due to a strike. In the past few years, S&F has grown greatly in the number of stores it operates.

1

Ponzi June 26, 2019 @ 8:43 p.m.

These big “union” grocers are doomed. Smart & Final, Aldi, Valley Farms, Vine Ripe, Zion, 99 Ranch, Seafood City, Foodland, Pancho Villas and so many more. I like cooking all kinds of ethnic foods from scratch, so I visit a lot of ethnic grocers. The “one-size-fits-all muumuu” approach to grocery retailing is a doomed plan. People in this era are going to farmers markets, local gardens, and then to the specialty grocers. Albertson’s and Von’s are the Sears of the grocery business. Adios.

1

Ken Harrison June 26, 2019 @ 10 p.m.

In my haste to file this story, and beat the 5:00 TV News, I forgot to include those additional non-union grocery stores mentioned by Visduh and Ponzi. Smart & Final, 99 Ranch, WinCo and Grocery Outlet are additional growing chains that did not exist much in the 2003 grocery strike against Vons, Albertson's and Ralph's.

Here's a rumor I heard back in 2003 from both Vons management (in the stores) and union protesters in 2003. I could never substantiate it however. If the strike had gone on longer, Vons was prepared to shut down, go out of business, and re-brand itself under a new name, thus voiding any responsibility of a new union contract.

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AlexClarke June 27, 2019 @ 6:28 a.m.

It seems that most people don't care about anyone else's job. We seem to have bought into the Walmart economy, that is one of low wages, no/low benefits, no worker rights, no worker representation. Without unions there is no middle class. While unions have their issues and are not the be all end all they are important. When you "don't care" if someone loses their job then don't look for anyone to care if you lose your job.

1

Wabbitsd June 27, 2019 @ 7:47 a.m.

Another store to try: Northgate Market.

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lonana June 27, 2019 @ 8:48 a.m.

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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clockerbob July 3, 2019 @ 11:05 a.m.

Wednesday July 3rd while shopping at Vons in Mission Hills I scored Washington state Cherries as big as your thumb and sweet for 97 cents a lb.. Get some while you can.

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