Food 4 Less workers authorize strike

The union representing 6,000 Food 4 Less workers announced Friday its members voted overwhelming to authorize a strike.

"Today's overwhelming strike authorization vote sends a clear message to the company: we will not be divided," the union's bargaining committee said in a statement. "It's us and our fellow members that are in the stores day in and day out, making record profits and keeping customers happy.

"But Food 4 Less is trying to intimidate, bully, and strong-arm us into accepting a contract that is less than what we deserve and far less than what their parent company, Kroger, offers to other union grocery workers in the area.

"We know our customers and our communities are on our side, and if Food 4 Less/Foods Co. continues to play games with our livelihoods and drag its feet at the bargaining table, we will be forced to take action. We look forward to continuing negotiations this Monday where we will continue to stand together for the contract we deserve."

There was no immediate response to an email sent Friday night to Food 4 Less, which has 15 stores in the Los Angeles area and is a subsidiary of The Kroger Co., along with Ralphs.

On Monday, the company announced it has presented the union with an offer that includes more than $70 million in wage investments, which would lift salaries to $25.80 per hour by 2026 for a full-time cashier with four years of full-time experience, for an annual salary of more than $50,000. The proposal also would not increase employee health insurance costs over the three-year contract.

"At Food 4 Less/Foods Co., our hardworking and dedicated associates are the heartbeat of our company, and our goal is to continue to provide market- competitive wages and benefits that we know are so important to our associates and their families," Bryan Kaltenbach, president of Food 4 Less/Foods Co., said in a statement.

"We will continue to do everything we can to balance investments in wages and overall well-being while keeping food affordable for our customers."

The demands by United Food and Commercial Workers Locals 8GS, 135, 324, 770, 1167, 1428 and 1442 include higher pay and safety improvements. Their contract expired Saturday.

The union's demands include higher pay and safety improvements.

A vote count was not released.

On May 22, the union locals filed unfair labor practice charges against Food 4 Less/Foods Co., alleging the company undermined negotiations and workers' rights to representation. Union officials said the company has engaged in unlawful surveillance of workers, prohibited them from participating in union activity, blocked them from talking to union representatives and unilaterally changed the contract.

The union also claimed the company is attempting to strong-arm workers into accepting an offer that is less than what Kroger provides other grocery workers in the area.