Grocery Workers Picket Albertsons HQ in Fullerton

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If you swing by the Albertsons corporate headquarters in Fullerton about seven minutes from now, you might spot your local checker.

He or she will not be there to collect his or her paycheck, however.

Members of the grocers' union are picketing outside 1421 Manhattan Ave. to coincide with demonstrations at the HQ's of Southern California's two other big chains: Vons in Arcadia and Ralphs in Compton.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324 claims its 62,000 members were already struggling to maintain their healthcare and position in the middle class under their contract that expired March 6. But the proposal by management for a new one will cut members' pay by $7,000 and force many onto public assistance, claims the union, which adds that Vons actually provided welfare instructions to its employees.

Most grocery workers are permanent part-time employees whose average annual income hovers around $17,000, Local 324 says.

"Their business plan relies on fear and they believe we're too afraid to walk out," checker Kelly Pierce says of her company Albertsons in a union-issued statement. "They don't understand that for a lot of us, our healthcare plans are the only things keeping us in this industry."

Grocery chains, meanwhile, say they, too, are struggling . . . to cut costs to stay competitive in a difficult market and very competitive business.

"Our Albertsons banner is actively negotiating with several UFCW locals in California and is committed to working together with the union to reach an agreement that is fair and reasonable for both sides while also respecting the needs of its customers and the communities in which it operates," spokesman Mike Siemienas says in a corporate statement..

Today's noon rally in Fullerton will not only include rank-and-file workers but members of the clergy and community leaders who will reportedly deliver a letter to Albertsons executives urging them to "negotiate a contract that enables workers to raise their families with their middle-class neighbors, not on the backs of middle-class taxpayers."

Joe Reilly, a 90-year-old World War II veteran and retired member of the Machinists union, will reportedly describe "how his experiences as a liberator of Nazi concentration camps shaped his lifelong advocacy of union rights in America."

Of course, forces are conspiring to make unions a thing of the past, too.


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