Union authorizes strike against Food 4 Less - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Union authorizes strike against Food 4 Less

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Workers at a major local grocery store chain are getting set to walk off the job. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union has authorized a strike for employees at Food 4 Less stores.

Stacey Taylor Evans has worked at Food 4 Less for 18 years, but she's at a rally demanding better wages and benefits because she lives paycheck to paycheck.

"It's very scary, especially being in California, raising two daughters," she said.

Other employees at the grocery store chain joined her, along with local labor leaders, to ask for something they say is long overdue.

"I just want a fair raise. We've had a 40-cent raise for the last eight years that I've worked for the company. That's not a cost-of-living raise," employee Serena Bernam said.

Workers unions across Southern California have been negotiating with Food 4 Less and its parent company Kroger, but those talks have hit a snag. Union leader Mickey Kasparian says Food 4 Less employees are paid less than Kroger's other grocery store chain, Ralph's.

He says the negotiations have centered around securing equal pay and keeping benefits intact.

"We cannot have our members take reductions in their health care, take reductions in their hours worked per week, take reductions in their wages," Kasparian said.

In a statement, Food 4 Less says:

"Food 4 Less is committed to reaching an agreement with the union that is good for associates and allows the company to continue to operate in a very competitive market.... We remain hopeful that the union will have the same commitment to keep our associates working as we go through this process."

Union representatives and Food 4 Less will meet again on Wednesday, but Kasparian says he's already planning for the last resort.

"We're going to start meeting with strike captains, with the police force to try to outline the type of strike we would have. We're getting ready for a strike," Kasparian said.

Food 4 Less sales have helped contribute to Kroger's $501 million in first quarter profits this year. Employees like Evans hope the company doesn't forget about the value of its workers.

"They have that amount of money, why can't they pay us for doing right by them?" she said.

A strike at every Food 4 Less location in Southern California would affect an estimated 6,500 employees.

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