Monday, February 19 , 2018, 3:27 am | Fair 49º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Grocery Workers, Supporters Rally for Fair Contract at Santa Barbara Supermarket

Southern California United Food and Commercial Workers union has voted to strike against Albertsons, Ralphs, Safeway and Vons stores if agreement can't be reached

Members and supporters of the UFCW grocery store workers union rallied at the Santa Barbara downtown Ralphs supermarket Wednesday asking for a fair labor contract.
Members and supporters of the UFCW grocery store workers union rallied at the Santa Barbara downtown Ralphs supermarket Wednesday asking for a fair labor contract.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara-area grocery store workers and dozens of supporters came out Wednesday to demand a fair salary contract for employees at Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons.

Standing together in front of Ralphs supermarket at 100 W. Carrillo St., they called for a contract that provides affordable healthcare, livable wages and reliable schedules.

“The workers are here to demand the company understands that we need a contract that helps makes ends meet,” said Rigo Valdez, spokesperson for United Food and Commercial Workers International Union  Local 770, which represents 29,000 workers from San Luis Obispo to San Diego.

“Southern California is expensive to live and Santa Barbara, especially. We need a contract that reflects that.”

The current proposal would cut pay and healthcare benefits, Valdez said. The chains are seeking to cut costs ahead of the state minimum wage rising to $15 an hour by 2020, with starting wages at $10.20 an hour, according to the union.

“This happens to be my supermarket,” City Councilwoman Cathy Murillo said during the rally. “A labor contract is not just a piece of paper, it’s a blueprint for your well-being, health and quality of life. A decent salary means a decent life.”

Supporters held megaphones, picket signs and chanted while they marched around the courtyard in front of the downtown supermarket.

A local Albertsons worker spoke to the crowd on behalf of her peers to explain her frustration.

“I’m here for one reason only,” Reyna Martinez said. “To show these companies they can’t be greedy anymore and we are going to fight and be united.”

Local elected officials showed up to the rally including school board member Monique Limon, left, who signed a letter to the Ralphs manager stating concerns about employees’ financial stress. Click to view larger
Local elected officials showed up to the rally including school board member Monique Limon, left, who signed a letter to the Ralphs manager stating concerns about employees’ financial stress.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The rally, which also drew a group of elected officials, was organized by UFCW Local 770.

Among the crowd was Assemblymember Das Williams, City Councilman Gregg Hart, First District County Supervisor Salud Carbajal, Santa Barbara Unified School District board member Monique Limón, Democratic Party Chair Daraka Larimore-Hall and Third District County Supervisor candidate Joan Hartmann.

A group of union workers and elected officials delivered an oversized letter to the Ralphs store manager stating their concerned for the employees' financial stress.

“We presented it to the manager and shared the letter to let him know that we stand with the workers,” Maricela Morales, executive director of Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy said. “Workers are not just workers, they are community members.”

On June 20, Southern California members of the UFCW voted in favor of a strike against Albertsons, Pavilions, Ralphs, Safeway and Vons stores if the corporations do not meet their demands. 

Valdez said no strike date has been set, but the workers overwhelmingly voted in favor of supporting it.

During the supermarket strike of 2003-04, the companies lost billions of dollars — along with customers who changed their shopping habits, said Joe Pierre, a UFCW Local 770 representative. 

“I imagine another strike would have a similar impact,” Pierre said. 

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

On June 20, Southern California members of the UFCW voted in favor of striking against Albertsons, Pavilions, Ralphs, Safeway and Vons stores if the corporations does not meet their contract demands, but no strike date has been set. Click to view larger
On June 20, Southern California members of the UFCW voted in favor of striking against Albertsons, Pavilions, Ralphs, Safeway and Vons stores if the corporations does not meet their contract demands, but no strike date has been set.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)
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