WASHINGTON - January 20 - Union leaders and the AFL-CIO announced today that the labor movement will extend nationwide its efforts to hold the line for affordable healthcare in its fight with grocery chains in Southern California. The announcement was made at a meeting of union leaders from more than 50 cities and UFCW officials. The record mobilization includes community support and intense education of Safeway shoppers. The announcement follows the breakdown of yet another effort to persuade Safeway - - the lead grocery chain in the dispute - - as well as Ralphs and Albertsons, to abandon their extreme demand for the effective elimination of health care benefits.
We expect an overwhelming response among consumers and the community, because shoppers understand that Safeway is mounting an attack on health care standards that will affect all working families, said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka. Americas workers and grocery shoppers draw the line at corporate greed and profiteering at the expense of basic healthcare coverage for workers.
Safeways CEO Steve Burd would like the public to believe that the strike and lockout is about a few dollars a paycheck, said UFCW Secretary-Treasurer Joe Hansen. But these grocery chains demands will lead to the end of affordable family health care. We wont let them put enormous profits before people.
We will win this strike for all California families and all working families. Health care is that important for everyone, said John Burnett who is a 25-year Kroger/Ralphs employee and member of UFCW Local 1167. Steve Burd doesnt know what its like for working familieshow we worry about making sure our kids will have the medical care they need. Burd has yet to realize that affordable family health care is worth fighting for. But he will.
Huge, profitable companies Safeway/Vons, Kroger/Ralphs, and Albertsons offered a dramatic, permanent cut in healthcare benefits and two-tiered pay scale in the latest contract. Even though they reaped great profits in recent years and can afford the benefits their workers need, Kroger, Safeway, and Albertsons stores argue that they need to cut benefits to remain competitive.
"Clearly, these big grocery chains have miscalculated the strength and resolve of the grocery workers and misjudged American shoppers who honor the workers fight. The 13 million members of the AFL-CIO stand behind the 70,000 striking and locked-out UFCW grocery workers in Southern California and will do whatever it takes to make sure that these striking and locked out workers hold the line one day longer than their employers, concluded Trumka.