Thursday, August 22

Teamsters add fuel to strike


Another chapter in the supermarket strike saga unfolded Monday
with the announcement by the Teamsters union that warehouse workers
will halt shipments to the three major grocery chains ““ just
in time for the busiest shopping week of the year.

Titled the “Silver Bullet,” leaders of the United
Food and Commercial Workers Union and the Teamsters union planned
the action to be used in a situation where union members felt
negotiations were not progressing, representatives of both unions
said.

The Southern California UFCW division, representing 70,000
supermarket employees, has been on strike since Oct. 11 in protest
over health benefits and wages for new employees.

With Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, the timing of
the Teamsters union’s decision is potent because supermarkets
will be experiencing the heaviest business of the year, said
Richard Cowan, UFCW secretary and treasurer.

Representing 8,000 supermarket warehouse workers from Southern
California and some other southwestern regions, the Teamsters Union
Joint Council 42 announced that warehouse workers and truck drivers
employed by the three supermarket chains will walk off the job.
Doing so will stop shipments of groceries to the Ralphs, Albertsons
and Vons stores until replacement workers are hired.

These grocery chains said they are well-stocked and prepared for
the holiday season, and they will not let this new measure disrupt
business.

The decision was prompted when Joe Santangelo, president of
Teamsters Union Joint Council 42, received a call Sunday evening
from the UFCW, asking for the Teamsters’ support and
cooperation in the strike.

Beginning at noon Monday, supermarket strikers extended their
picket line to grocery distribution centers, and thousands of
Teamsters union members walked off the job. Teamsters union members
were encouraged not to participate in, but also not to cross picket
lines.

“Teamsters will not be working and will stay at
home,” Santangelo said. “They will be staying away from
picket lines because it’s not their fight.”

Groceries originate in manufacturing plants, where they are then
shipped to the distribution centers in which Teamsters union
members are employed. Warehouse workers then ship the groceries to
stores located across Southern California.

Currently, there are no picket lines at the Ralphs supermarkets,
but Cowan said grocery workers will now be picketing at Ralphs
distribution centers.

“It’s a concern that if (there are no picketers),
Ralphs might start diverting their products from their warehouses
to Vons and Albertsons,” Cowan said.

Though the Teamsters are not directly involved with the
supermarket strike, Santangelo said they wholeheartedly support the
picketers because the Teamster unions will also face negotiations
with the same employers when their contract is up for renewal in
two years.

“We’re prepared for a fight,” Santangelo
said.

With reports from Daily Bruin wire services.

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