Vons union reaches tentative deal with stores


Grocery workers demonstrate in Southern California as strike talk intensifies.


Just after noon on Monday, grocery union officials and negotiators for Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons reached a tentative deal which will avoid a strike that was poised to move forward.  A strike would have affected the two stores in the Eastern Sierra.

The contract under negotiation went on past a Sunday night strike deadline only to be resolved today. Details of the tentative deal were not revealed.  Vons corporate public relations did not return our phone calls from last Friday.


According to Reuters News Service, the union that represents many of the 62,000 workers at Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons,including Vons workers in Inyo-Mono, issued a required 72-hour notice of its plan to cancel its extended contract which some sources say could lead to a strike.

Local Vons Manager Rick Graham at the Mammoth Lakes store said that the union issuance does affect Vons workers in the Eastern Sierra.  We were referred to as many as four numbers to contact corporate public affairs for a statement from the stores.  Our final call went to Brian Dowling, Director of Public Affairs for Vons.  We have not heard back.

How serious is this, yet another strike threat?  What is known is that the union and the supermarkets reached an impasse over healthcare coverage.   According to Reuters News Service, employees have given the union the go-ahead to call a strike if an acceptable deal for a new contract can not be reached.

As many here recall, it was in 2003 that Vons went on strike for four and a  half months.  Rick Icaza, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 is quoted as saying that “We don’t want to s trike, but if they won’t negotiate, we have no choice.”

Sources say that when the 72-hour notice to cancel the contract ends, it does not mean an immediate walk-out.  Sources say it does mean workers will begin final strike preparations.

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31 Responses to Vons union reaches tentative deal with stores

  1. Eamon September 20, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    The possibility of a Vons strike stemmed from the reality that Vons management was going to completely take away the retirement benefits of all employees (both new and long-term employees) and severely limit health care benefits. I support the employees…..strike if necessary, the irony is that all the “Anti-Union” rhetoric on this post is probably coming from retired, local people…..I wonder what AARP would be doing if Congress was going to cut your Cadillac “MediCare” programs and Social Security benefits?

  2. Steve S September 20, 2011 at 3:28 am #

    If they were to go on strike, I would just drink beer I buy at Rite Aid. The beer is always the cheapest in town there anyways.

    • Rob September 20, 2011 at 7:13 am #

      Beers even cheaper at Rite Aid in Bishop. Especially if you can drink Keystone.

      And Ken I pretty much agree with all you said above. My worry is when we’re at the top and in a global market there’s no where to go but down.

      Wal Mart’s not the cheapest place for Tomato’s now that the 99 cent stores are selling them.

      I’m happy to see the grocery workers made a deal they can live with and avoided having to strike.

      • Ken Warner September 20, 2011 at 9:30 am #

        I’m glad of the deal too. Strikes are a last resort and they are hard on everybody.

        As for the idea of a global market place. That’s eventually what will be the norm. The World is in a period of transition from local to global. Hopefully, all economies will reach an equitable level. Until then we (us Americans) should not be giving away the store. We have to do more to protect our own and not ship jobs overseas.

        And we can’t just race to the bottom to find the lowest common denominator. NAFTA and the other free trade agreements seem to have been too great a change. Maybe we should back off a few notches and go slower toward the global economy waiting for the third world to catch up instead of diminishing our own in the process.

        Just a thought off the top of my head. What do I know???? And I’ll take a 99 cent store please…

  3. J.H. September 19, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

    Unions protect the regular person from being exploited from greedy people and corporations, just like Vons. If I am going to pay the highest price in the nation for food here, I would call it only far that the people trying to make a living working there get their fair share. I would be ashamed to even consider crossing a picket line. And No I’m not in a union.

  4. Rob September 19, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    Ken – The problem with unions in the U.S. is that can’t compete in a global market.

    of course that has nothing to do with the grocery clerks. We just pay more for our food for them to have their union.

    Mammoth needs a Wal Mart. Then every other business in town might as well close.

    • Ken Warner September 19, 2011 at 7:43 pm #

      The global market is not a level playing field. Free trade has not benefited the average worker in the U.S. unions or no unions.

      And if you want to look at global trade as a competition of sorts and the average worker as the contestant — what do you win in a race to the bottom?

      And the cost of an hourly worker at a market is not the determining cost factor in food prices. Remember the last strike a few years ago. A lot of the old time union people got gone from that one — what happened to food prices? They didn’t get cheaper.

      Once again — a simplistic analysis with bumper slogan solutions don’t provide much insight.

      And a Wal-Mar would be a real boon to the whole Owens Valley and it wouldn’t put MMSA out of business or any of the 200+ real estate brokers or any of the sports shops. It would just mean that we wouldn’t have to pay $4.00 a pound for tomatoes — hopefully.

      I don’t know but I’ve been told that our Vons and the Vons in Bishop are the most expensive Vons in SoCal except for Catalina Island. I personally could do with cheap tomatoes.

    • Ken Warner September 20, 2011 at 4:39 am #

      …by the way — here’s what working without unions would be like — and this is America.


      • Tourbillon September 23, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

        You are citing the Daily Kos? Hook up with “Loblaw” and the other kool-aid drinkers to resist being dragged into the 21st century.

  5. upthecreek September 19, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    get out the Popcorn….

  6. k September 19, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    Because of the price of gas and limited family funds, if there is a strike, I will still have to shop at Vons in Mammoth. It will have nothing to do with what side I am on – it will just be a necessary economical decision for our family. I wish the potential strikers much luck in their talks – but I cannot afford to shop anywhere else. Note: I will get some products from Sierra Sundance but money-wise it is not practical to get all my family’s grocery needs met there. Vons workers, if you see some of us still shopping at Vons during the strike (if it happens) do not speak unkindly towards us – we simply cannot afford to travel hundred’s of miles extra to buy our groceries – that is our reality.

  7. Rob September 19, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    There’s power in numbers, but there’s also power in skill and knowlege.

    If you have no skill or knowledge you’d better go with power in numbers and join a union.

    • Ken Warner September 19, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

      The spectrum of skills and knowledge is more complex than all or nothing. Some highly skilled people still need collective bargaining. Remember the air traffic controllers that Reagan fired?


      Nobody really won that. And just having a skill is no guarantee of job stability. Think of all the software engineers that were outsourced to places like India, Russia, Ireland (of all places)

      You offer simplistic, black and white solutions. It aint that way….

  8. Ken Warner September 19, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    There seems to be a substantial amount of anti-union feeling here on this blog. I wonder where it came from?

    And at the same time, nobody complains about the 40 hour work week or child labor laws or paid health care — all came about from union’s collective bargaining. Now why would people complain about a social strategy to make life better for themselves and diminish the disparity between upper and middle classes? It’s a mystery that people continue to speak out against their own best interests.


    • Unions raise wages of unionized workers by roughly 20% and raise compensation, including both wages and benefits, by about 28%.

    • Unions reduce wage inequality because they raise wages more for low- and middle-wage workers than for higher-wage workers, more for blue-collar than for white-collar workers, and more for workers who do not have a college degree.

    • Strong unions set a pay standard that nonunion employers follow. For example, a high school graduate whose workplace is not unionized but whose industry is 25% unionized is paid 5% more than similar workers in less unionized industries.

    • The impact of unions on total nonunion wages is almost as large as the impact on total union wages.

    • The most sweeping advantage for unionized workers is in fringe benefits. Unionized workers are more likely than their nonunionized counterparts to receive paid leave, are approximately 18% to 28% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance, and are 23% to 54% more likely to be in employer-provided pension plans.

    • Unionized workers receive more generous health benefits than nonunionized workers. They also pay 18% lower health care deductibles and a smaller share of the costs for family coverage. In retirement, unionized workers are 24% more likely to be covered by health insurance paid for by their employer.

    • Unionized workers receive better pension plans. Not only are they more likely to have a guaranteed benefit in retirement, their employers contribute 28% more toward pensions.

    • Unionized workers receive 26% more vacation time and 14% more total paid leave (vacations and holidays).

    Unions play a pivotal role both in securing legislated labor protections and rights such as safety and health, overtime, and family/medical leave and in enforcing those rights on the job. Because unionized workers are more informed, they are more likely to benefit from social insurance programs such as unemployment insurance and workers compensation. Unions are thus an intermediary institution that provides a necessary complement to legislated benefits and protections.

    • High & Dry September 21, 2011 at 10:40 am #

      The United Auto Workers Union destroyed the U.S. economy by negotiating $61.00 per hour salaries for non-skilled assembly line workers 15 years ago..

      • Charles James September 21, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

        The statement on the hourly wage by a UAW worker quoted by High & Dry is simply not true.

        A simple search on the internet shows that “the average union autoworker makes around $28 an hour as of 2007 and the new contract signed in early 2008 will limit the top wage of many non-core new hires to roughly $14 an hour with a lower degree of benefit costs also.” There are numerous other examples of similar findings.

        In fact, workers at non-union auto plants in the U.S. such as Toyota and others actually now make more on average than UAW workers who have made concessions to put more people back to work and to save their companies.

        Some of the ridiculously high hourly costs offered by union antagonists such as High & Dry are not based on the actual hourly pay of a unskilled auto worker but rather come from taking costs for pensions, health benefits and all company costs for both working and retired employees, including legacy costs, and dividing it by the number of those working. To say it is the average hourly wage is dishonest and disingenuous.

  9. JaneE September 18, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

    That is exactly why people join unions in the first place. One unhappy employee can be replaced without a major impact. Ten or twenty employees, not so easy to replace all at once. It can be done, but rarely without an impact on the business.

    • Grrrr! September 19, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

      Do you honestly think ALL of the employees at VONS will stirke? My best “racist” guess will be NO – the Hispanics won’t. They don’t care about the politics of the union – they just care about making money to take care of their families.

      • Wayne Deja September 19, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

        Yeah,too bad “others” don’t think that same way..wanting to care and support their families..

  10. J.H. September 17, 2011 at 9:46 pm #

    Wayne- there is power in numbers and I would fire you being weak .

    • Wayne Deja September 19, 2011 at 11:19 am #

      Long ago,I was brought up with the notion that an employer is doing you the favor by employing you,not the other way around.Power in numbers?……In this case,with a probable strike,it’s not as if the markets will be unable to find replacements.And certainly not much support that would lead customers to support the strike by shopping elsewhere….It sure won’t with me.The only distraction will be the rude,obnoxious strikers standing around the store entrances,thinking they can intimidate the shoppers from going into the store to buy their groceries….it will have very little impact on the business…

      • Bob Loblaw September 20, 2011 at 11:52 am #

        Let’s not forget where collective bargaining sprang from. Back in Wayne’s “Good Ol’ Days” working men (and children) were just happy to have a job, and thrilled to get a lower paying one, when they could no longer do their job due to their losing an appendage in a machine at their better paying job. Yep, life was truly good then. None of this nonsense about minimum wages, or wanting safe working conditions. If an employee didn’t like it, he was free to go elsewhere, so long as he first paid his debt at the company store, and moved directly out of the town that was actually owned by said employer.

  11. Tourbillon September 17, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

    Ralph’s will close all stores here in response to the strike, so they say. So Von’s will have an unchallenged monopoly. And you think carrot prices are high now?

    Dudes, dudettes, I’m manning the barricades with you in solidarity. Why not? What else do we have to do, now that you’ve eradicated your company from the state?

    Thank God we live in a federation in which the schmucks from other states have to support our loser unionista job-killers. And us. Until they realize they can kick us out, as Greece is about to be expiated from the Euro Zone. Then, it’s hola a Costa Rica Del Norte!!!!

    • Bob Loblaw September 20, 2011 at 11:44 am #

      You have actually managed to dumb down anonymous internet posting.

      • Tourbillon September 23, 2011 at 7:48 pm #

        Since you have proven incapable of offering a responsible, reasoned reply other than a mere conclusory smear, I will take my point as having gone unrebutted.

  12. Bobbie Lee Swagger September 17, 2011 at 6:21 pm #

    Hard to imagine what union leaders would recommend and what union would follow a recommendation to go out in a job market with 12 percent (!) unemployment.

  13. Rob September 17, 2011 at 11:27 am #

    My friend who works for VON’s corporate told me they’re willing to hold out several years.

    It’s a trade that requires almost no skill making it very easy to replace striking employees.


    So I guess we’ll see what happens.

  14. Scott September 17, 2011 at 9:37 am #


    What is your contract like with your boss? How do often do you and the other party conduct contract negotiations?

    Seems to me that if you were in the middle of negotiating your contract (you know, a binding agreement that two or more parties agree to) and the other party wanted to take away something you found important that you would do your best to keep the items you value. That’s what negotiations are all about.

    Keep in mind too, Wayne (as I am sure you do with your own personal contract) that all parties have agreed, time and time again, to negotiate and re-negotiate the contract at set points in time.

  15. Steve S September 17, 2011 at 8:28 am #

    Vons needs to lower there prices and get a better singer!

  16. Wayne Deja September 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

    Don’t understand why such a big deal….not only with this possible strike,but anykind of strike…If I were to complain to my boss,for whatever reason,benifits,pay,working conditions,etc.one of two things would happen….He would replace me with someone who wants a job,or he would probably say”this is what you get,take it or leave it”….either way,he would be justified by doing so.With so many people out of work now,and the condition of the economy the way it is,whoever is stupid enough to go on “strike” now,knowing they can be replaced in a heartbeat,AND be out of work with no income at all,it just seems a dumb….and dangerous thing to do.

    • Ken Warner September 17, 2011 at 3:47 am #

      Here’s another way to look at it: The economy is, “…the way it is…” because real income has been diminishing for decades for a variety of reasons which have been discussed ad nauseum. If nobody has money to spend the economy grinds to a halt.

      And you are right that if one worker complains about his job to his boss, then that worker’s job is in jeopardy. That’s what collective bargaining is all about. If all the workers demand from their boss better working conditions together at the same time, that gives workers leverage.

      It is not dumb to go on strike. It is dumb to keep on working for less than a living wage and reasonable benefits. And it is dangerous and risky. Yet if workers continue to agree to work for less and less — working conditions will not get better — they will get worse. Somewhere, sometime workers will have to make a stand. This is one of those times.

      And it is telling to note that this is possibly the second strike this decade. What is it about Safeway (Von’s parent company) that necessitates a strike by it’s workers?


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