LOS ANGELES -- Supermarket labor disputes around the country remained tense last week as the United Food and Commercial Workers Union here threatened to step up the pressure on Safeway, Vons and Albertsons.
One bright spot was in St. Louis where members of UFCW Local 655 voted Oct. 31 to approve a settlement, ending the strike and lockout that had begun Oct. 7 at Dierbergs Markets, Chesterfield, Mo.; Schnuck Markets, St. Louis; and Shop 'n Save, Kirkwood, Mo., a subsidiary of Supervalu.
In Cincinnati, Kroger Co. said it and UFCW Local 700, Indianapolis, have agreed to sign a seven-day contract extension at the request of a federal mediator, which will keep some 4,000 clerks and meat department employees at 58 central Indiana Kroger stores on the job and off the picket lines at least through tomorrow night.
However, in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, Kroger and UFCW Local 400, which represents 3,300 workers at 44 Kroger stores, suspended talks after the two sides failed to resolve the issues that led to a strike that began Oct. 13. Those stores remain closed during the strike. At issue is a union proposal for a new health benefit network offering larger discounts, Jim Lowthers, president, UFCW Local 400, told SN.
Meanwhile, Rick Icaza, president of UFCW Local 770 here, said in a press conference the union may expand its picket lines at Vons and Albertsons stores in Southern California to Vons and Albertsons distribution centers here and to Safeway locations in other parts of the country.
The union said it was pulling pickets off the 249 Ralphs stores operated by Kroger Co. in Southern California to give consumers more shopping options. However, he said Ralphs employees were still locked out of their stores.
He said the union is considering extending the picket lines to Northern California or Arizona, "and we're having talks with locals in other areas about extending the lines to Safeway stores there because they are the No. 1 villain."
The chains have been losing 75% of their business since picketing began on Oct. 11, with Vons losing "up to $150 million after nearly three weeks."
Icaza said the union opted to remove the pickets from Ralphs stores rather than from Albertsons because of a lawsuit over picketing filed by Albertsons against the union.