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Food4less Makes New Offer as Workers Vote on Strike Authorization

Published on Tuesday, June 11, 2024 | 5:17 am

As members of the union representing 6,000 Food 4 Less workers are voting on whether to authorize a strike, the grocery chain’s owners Monday presented what they deemed their “best offer” to reach a contract agreement, including wage increases of up to $3.25 an hour for some workers over the next three years.

Food4less operates a store at 1329 N. Lake Ave. in the North Lake Avenue Square Shopping Center.

The strike authorization vote will continue through the week, absent a contract agreement, with results set to be announced after voting ends on Friday, according to a statement by United Food and Commercial Workers Locals 8GS, 135, 324, 770, 1167, 1428 and 1442. Their labor contract expired Saturday.

The union’s demands include higher pay and safety improvements.

“When we started contract negotiations with Food 4 Less/Foods Co., we made it clear that it (was) important to us that we reach a tentative agreement before contract expiration and we came to the table willing to put in the time and work to get that done,” union officials said in a statement Saturday. “But instead of working with us towards a reasonable contract, our employer would rather play games with our livelihoods and offer proposals that grossly underestimate our value and their wealth.

“Everyone deserves a wage that reflects their work and no one deserves to be bullied at their job. By violating our rights, Food 4 Less and Kroger are making it harder to help our customers and keep our stores well- serviced, which is why we’ve been forced to take a strike authorization vote.”

Food 4 Less, which has 15 stores in the Los Angeles area, is a subsidiary of The Kroger Co., along with Ralphs.

On Monday, the company announced it has presented the union with an offer that includes more than $70 million in wage investments, which would lift salaries to $25.80 per hour by 2026 for a full-time cashier with four years of full-time experience, for an annual salary of more than $50,000. The proposal also would not increase employee health insurance costs over the three-year contract.

“At Food 4 Less/Foods Co., our hardworking and dedicated associates are the heartbeat of our company, and our goal is to continue to provide market- competitive wages and benefits that we know are so important to our associates and their families,” Bryan Kaltenbach, president of Food 4 Less/Foods Co., said in a statement. “We will continue to do everything we can to balance investments in wages and overall well-being while keeping food affordable for our customers.”

Kroger issued a statement over the weekend saying the company has “remained committed to negotiating in good faith.”

“From the start, our focus has been on reaching an agreement that benefits our hardworking and dedicated associates,” according to the company. “We are deeply disappointed that UFCW Southern California chose to leave the bargaining table before contract expiration, rather than working together to prioritize the needs of their members — our valued associates. It remains our goal to put more money in our associates’ pockets, maintain industry leading healthcare and provide retirement benefits for their futures.

“We will continue to balance our desire to invest in our associates with the need to keep groceries affordable for our customers. Our associates are the most important piece of our business, and we hope to reach an agreement that is beneficial for all parties.”

On May 22, the union locals filed unfair labor practice charges against Food 4 Less/Foods Co., alleging the company undermined negotiations and workers’ rights to representation. Union officials said the company has engaged in unlawful surveillance of workers, prohibited them from participating in union activity, blocked them from talking to union representatives and unilaterally changed the contract.

The union also claimed the company is attempting to strong-arm workers into accepting an offer that is less than what parent company Kroger provides other grocery workers in the area.

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