AFL-CIO pledges support to grocery store workers ahead of possib - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

AFL-CIO pledges support to grocery store workers ahead of possible strike

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The umbrella group representing unions across the region announced its support Tuesday for grocery store workers considering a strike.

The head of the regional AFL-CIO lent its support to some 10,000 Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons employees, saying she would ask more than 190,000 union members to shop elsewhere, and the AFL-CIO would set up a fund to pay workers if they strike.

"We will not let affected workers go without support," said Lorena Gonzalez, secretary-treasurer of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council. "My heart is heavy because the idea of a long strike can be devastating."

Local chapters of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which voted to authorize a strike in April, are negotiating contracts with the stores. They have been working without a contract for about three months.

Mickey Kasperian, the head of the UFCW in San Diego, said union negotiators wanted the stores to pay the same share of their health care benefits as in the past, but their opponents want the employees to pay up to 80 percent of the costs.

Kasperian said the issue was the same as the one that prompted a 141-day strike in 2003-04.

UFCW spokeswoman Ellen Anreder said negotiations were continuing. A federal mediator, she said, banned the two sides from publicly discussing the specifics of the talks.

This is a breaking news alert. The previous story is below.

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The region's main labor organization Tuesday will urge San Diegans to respect picket lines in case grocery workers go on strike.

The San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council said a job action would involve 10,000 supermarket employees. The council's Evan McLaughlin said the AFL-CIO has sanctioned a possible strike.

California's chapters of the United Food and Commercial Workers are negotiating new contracts with Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons stores, and workers voted in April to authorize their leaders to call a strike, if necessary.

UFCW spokeswoman Ellen Anreder said negotiations are continuing, but a federal mediator has banned the two sides from giving further information to reporters.

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