Three major grocery store chains and their unionized workers appear to seriously disagree on how much progress they've made on a new labor agreement, according to a statement from the stores released Friday and comments from the union president Saturday.
The grocery store chains—Vons, Albertsons and Ralphs—said the agreement on pension issues "noteworthy" on Friday; however, the union called the pension agreement "small progress."
The two sides "still remain far apart on health care, and have not even discussed wages," said Rick Ikaza, the president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, on Saturday.
The grocery stores' statement came the day after the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor said, if a strike took place, it would support grocery workers by walking picket lines, attending rallies and providing funds for striking workers.
Health care seems to be one of the main issues separating the two parties.
Icaza alleged that the corporations' health care offer would increase $10,000 per year for unionized grocery clerks. He said the supermarket chains "want employees to shoulder the burden" of increased health costs while refusing to make a "small contribution" from their profits.
The most recent contract, which was ratified in 2007 after more than six months of negotiations, expired in March. In April, workers voted to authorize a strike.
The union's Icaza said the current contract offer is "an unfair shifting of costs by hugely profitable corporations, companies that made more than $5 billion in profits and paid more than $500 million to Wall Street and investors."
"We compromised on the pension issue," Icaza said Saturday. "Now is the time for management to compromise on health care."
The last time grocery workers went on strike was in 2003 into 2004. The 141-day strike and lockout cost the chains an estimated $1.5 billion and many workers their life savings.
According to the companies' websites, and each have one location in Manhattan Beach.
City News Service contributed to this report.