Supermarket entrances up and down the Golden State were the focus of grocery worker strike support activities this week. Three thousand longshoremen held a work stop meeting during a rally in front of the Albertsons store in the Los Angeles harbor town of San Pedro on Nov. 10. Several days later, 150 of the 70,000 grocery strikers packed their placards into buses and vans for a 500-mile trip north to the state’s Bay area where on Nov. 16 they spread their picket lines to Safeway stores in San Jose, San Mateo, Contra Costa County and Fresno.
“Our main concern is health care for us and the retirees,” said 22-year-old Stephanie Massey, a meat clerk at the Anaheim Vons supermarket. “They want to reduce our coverage about 50 percent. That’s really no coverage at all!” Massey spoke to the World from the sidewalk in front of an Oakland Safeway store where she was part of a team of 10 workers from her Orange County UFCW Local 324. The response from Oakland shoppers has been “absolutely more than I could have hoped for,” she said. “If customers don’t believe us, they talk to the workers in the store and end up walking out without purchasing.”
Back in Southern California, representatives of women’s organizations, union leaders and elected officials at a Nov. 13 rally in front of Studio City’s Vons urged shoppers to “use the power of the purse” to put the squeeze on supermarket sales during the pre-Thanksgiving shopping rush. Women are the focus of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor’s boycott strategy, according to retired Association of Flight Attendants President Charlie Costello. She said 150,000 shoppers had been reached by boycott mailings and recorded messages.
At the San Pedro rally, Miguel Contreras, executive secretary-treasurer of the federation, launched a “No turkeys” boycott of Safeway-owned Vons, Pavilion, and Albertsons, urging area families to do their holiday food shopping elsewhere. Longshoremen’s Union Local 13 President Joe Donato announced that the local has donated 500 holiday baskets to UFCW families.
UFCW members in Northern California supermarkets have welcomed the Southern California pickets, according to union spokesperson Ellen Anreder. They will be bargaining with Safeway and other employers next year, according to the union, and are preparing to face similar demands for cuts to health care. She attributed a huge drop-off in Northern California sales at the targeted chains to the union’s radio ad campaign as well as the picketing activities. The union plans to extend the picket lines to Sacramento this week.
Massey and her team were expecting to be relieved from their Northern California duties by a new contingent of 15 from their local. Massey, who is a union steward, says she’d like to spend Thanksgiving home with her family, “but if my store is open, I’ll be standing out in front with a picket sign.”
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