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Valley grocery workers vote on whether to strike, union alleges ‘unfair labor practice’ violations

Grocery workers locally and across the Southland began voting Monday on whether to authorize a strike as contract negotiations stall with the owners of Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons.

Some valley grocery store workers are in favor of walking out after the union said some employees have been threatened or intimidated.

"Give us the justice that we deserve, the rights that we deserve," said Palm Desert Albertson's employee Priscilla Garcia.

UFCW Local 1167 President Joe Duffle said the strike is over unfair labor practices.

"Threats and intimidation, offering people additional money at the time when we should be bargaining for that additional money – both of those are clear violations of section 7 and section 8 of the National Labor Relations Act," Duffle said. "It's unfortunate that employers feel like that they need to do that and pressure those employees."

Contract negotiations stalled earlier this month between the grocery workers union and Southern California supermarkets. Employees right now continue to work on the terms of their previous, expired contract.

The union represents about 47,000 workers at more than 500 stores from central California to the Mexico border.

Duffle said grocery employees deserve fair terms of employment, especially after working through the pandemic.

"They were yelled at, they were spat on, they were overworked, they were working 6 to 7 days a week," he said. "They were on the front line and they employers know that they were on the front line because the employers profits have soared over the last two years."

He said he hopes to ignore economic impacts to his members, but violations cannot be ignored. "When you get to the point where the employer feels that it's okay to commit an unfair labor practice and begin to threaten, intimidate, coerce, or otherwise, members of this union – we will stand up," Duffle said.

In a statement, Ralphs said: "A strike authorization vote doesn't mean a strike will happen, but it does create unnecessary concern for our associates and communities, at a time when we should be coming together in good faith bargaining to find solutions and compromise. At Ralphs we remain focused on settling a deal with the UFCW."

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Jake Ingrassia

Joining News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 as a reporter, Jake is excited to be launching his broadcasting career here in the desert. Learn more about Jake here.

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