Ralphs parking garage on East Wilson Avenue in Glendale. Image via Google Maps
Ralphs parking garage on East Wilson Avenue in Glendale. Image via Google Maps

Unionized Southland grocery workers will continue to cast ballots Tuesday on a proposed labor contract with the owners of Ralphs and Albertsons/Vons.

“It’s not terrific in terms of wages, but it’s acceptable,” Kathy Finn, the director of collective bargaining at local 770 of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, told the Los Angeles Times in reference to the draft contract.  “It’s going to get ratified. The members are going to be happy.”

After months of negotiations, the grocery chains and the union reached a tentative contract agreement on Thursday.

The highest-paid butchers, cashiers and general merchandise clerks will get a 30-cent-per-hour raise this year, applied retroactively to when the last contract expired in March. They’ll earn another 30-cent raise in 2017, plus a 25-cent raise in 2018, if the current proposal is approved, according to The Times.

Ralphs and Albertsons have proposed raising pay for entry-level cashiers, who used to earn 20 cents more than the minimum wage, to 40 cents above the highest applicable wage floor. That means that new workers at Los Angeles stores will earn 40 cents more than the local minimum wage of $10.50, above the state minimum of $10, The Times reported.

Everyone else will be entitled to a 10-cent raise roughly every four to five months. The union was unable to win bigger pay bumps for those less- experienced workers, said Finn.

But the union says it got the stores to back down on their attempt to raise the retirement age to 65, from 60, and on proposed cuts to holiday pay, according to The Times.

“We are very excited. We will be glad to get that vote done and move on,” Kendra Doyel, a spokeswoman for Ralphs, told the newspaper. “No one wins in a strike, not our associates, not our company and not our customers.”

“We will continue to provide retail employees with pay that significantly exceeds the minimum wage, along with comprehensive health, welfare and pension benefits,” Albertsons spokesman Carlos Illingworth added in an emailed statement to The Times.

The workers voted in June to authorize a strike if a new deal wasn’t reached by Monday. Separate negotiations with pharmacy workers are still underway.

—City News Service

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