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February 3, 2004

Renewed Support Re-Energizes SoCal Supermarket Strike

From Portland to Philadelphia, Seattle to Washington DC and Baltimore, community members and religious leaders are rallying at Safeway stores, demanding the company end its efforts to effectively eliminate health benefits for grocery workers. Concerned community members are asking customers to help hold the line and not shop Safeway. Workers, backed by their communities, have vowed to take the fight to save health care everywhere Safeway operates.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) has also launched a radio campaign in these areas. The spots, featuring two Southern California workers on strike, also ask customers to shop elsewhere, and to join the fight to save affordable health care by picketing their local Safeway store. Text of the radio spots is below.
Over 15,000 March on Northern and Southern California Safeway Stores
After nearly four months on the picket line, workers continue to stay strong in the fight to save health benefits at work. In Los Angeles, union members, grocery workers, community leaders, and clergy members gathered at the Great Western Forum and marched on a nearby Vons store. In a demonstration of solidarity, several other unions pledged generous donations to help the striking and locked-out workers in their time of need. The California Teachers Association donated $500,000 for a statewide radio campaign asking customers not to shop at the struck and locked-out chains, while the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) pledged to raise $1 million to cover the cost of health benefits for the workers who lost their health care on January 1.
At the same time, a demonstration at an Oakland Safeway drew hundreds of supporters. Several participated in a symbolic sit-in, including Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente. De La Fuente and 14 other community, religious, and labor leaders were arrested for refusing to disperse and blocking the entrance.
Community members are backing grocery workers in an unprecedented showing of support. Workers in every industry know that, if Safeway (Vons), Kroger (Ralphs), and Albertsons can succeed in effectively eliminating health benefits for their workers, then all workers’ health benefits nationwide stand to disappear.
Safeway CEO Under Pressure
Steve Burd May Be Forced to Resign
Safeway CEO Steve Burd, the mastermind behind the effort to effectively eliminate health care for working families, is feeling the heat from investors. Safeway’s business has continued to slump because of his poor management decisions, including his adamant attempts to end affordable health care. Burd’s mismanagement has led to a combined loss of over a billion dollars at Southern California Vons, Albertsons, and Kroger stores. Industry analysts are concerned that Burd’s tactics have permanently damaged the Safeway brand name, and alienated the very same workers who have made the company profitable.
The “”Grocery Workers Justice Pilgrimage”” brought nearly 300 religious leaders and workers to Burd’s home in the affluent Bay Area suburb of Alamo last week. Participants prayed outside of Burd’s gated community, asking the CEO to stop turning a blind eye to the suffering he is causing. They also brought over 10,000 messages from Southern California workers asking Burd to help save affordable family health care, instead of eliminating it.
California Attorney General Sues Grocery Chains
Mutual Aid Pact Allegedly Violates Anti-Trust Laws
California Attorney General Bill Lockyear announced Saturday a lawsuit against Safeway (Vons), Kroger (Ralphs) and Albertsons. The three chains entered into a profit-sharing pact at the start of the strike. The attorney general’s office has stated it believes the pact is in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. The agreement, which has not been released to the public, is believed the have hurt customers by discouraging competitive pricing among the chains. The attorney Lockyear addressed thousands of supporters about the lawsuit at the Los Angeles rally this weekend.
Hi, I’m Maria Patris. As a breast cancer survivor, health care is a matter of life and death. Now, I and 70,000 other supermarket workers have been forced to strike because Safeway wants to take away health benefits. I’m not giving up—health care is worth fighting for. If Safeway can take away my health benefits, then Safeway could take away health benefits from families in your area.
Join us at your local Safeway store and help hold the line for affordable health care.
A message from the working men and women of the UFCW.
Hi, I’m Gary Gallucci. My dream is to give my kids a better future. Now, Safeway is threatening my dream. I and 70,000 other Southern California supermarket workers have been forced to strike to save our health benefits. I’m not giving up—family health care is worth fighting for. If Safeway can take away our health benefits, Safeway could take away health benefits from families in your area.
A message from the working men and women of the UFCW.
January 29, 2004

New York Actors Stage Reading of New Play at Actor’s Gang Theater to Benefit 70,000 Striking Grocery Workers

The Three Same Guys, by playwright Joe Roland, a staged reading, one night only at The Actor’s Gang in Los Angeles, CA, on February 3, 2004, 7pm and 10pm.  Seats $50.

In the new play by playwright/actor Joe Roland the strike is fictional, the factory and the union town are fictional, the characters are fictional but the human spirit revealed in a battle for a living wage not to mention a decent life is as real and as devastating as the one being fought by the 70,000 workers on picket lines across Southern California.

According to acclaimed Director Mike Nichols (Angels in America), “”There hasn’t been a play like it since Waiting for Lefty and this one is about right this minute in America””.

The Three Same Guys will enjoy a full production at Trinity Rep in Providence, RI, in fall 2004 with Mr. Roland playing the central character, Dev.  This winter, however, Mr. Roland along with three like-minded New York actors will hit the stage scripts in hand to raise awareness as well as cash for the supermarket workers.

“Three giant corporations (Safeway, Kroger and Albertson’s) are attempting to eliminate health care benefits at work, effectively destroying affordable health care, for these workers. Says Roland, “”There is a war being waged on the working class in America. They are slowly disappearing into the ranks of the working poor….Personally I think that corporate America is taking the short view. A nation of poor, overworked, underinsured service workers can’t be good for business.

“”[But] this benefit isn’t really about the money. It’s about morale and attention. Those mothers and fathers and sons and daughters are fighting for their jobs, and for the jobs of millions of Americans, because although the American public may not be watching, you can bet your ass that American business is. I want those people on strike to know that I am paying attention, that many of us are paying attention and that we appreciate it….””

Followers of New York’s off-Broadway circuit know Roland as a founding actor of Water Theater Company, where the charter touts “”the political and social change that enlightening, artful theatre brings…We dedicate ourselves to exploring and sharing the explosive, transforming power of that human endeavor–the creative process–with all its revelations.”” Water Theater Company is proud to be presenting this special evening of theater.

For reservations call 323-782-6277, cash and checks will be accepted at the door. Admission is $50.00, please make all checks payable to “UFCW Strike Hardship Fund”.  The Actor’s Ggang is located at 6209 Santa Monica Blvd. Shows at 7 and 10 pm.

For more information on the reading, call the reservation line and leave a number where you can be reached.

January 21, 2004

Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice

Los Angeles—Affordable family health care coverage is a moral issue. It is a dominant civil rights issue of the 21st century.

Members of the faith and labor communities hold the line for affordable health care at Safeway’s LA office.

We are dismayed that three Fortune 50 companies—Safeway/Vons, Kroger/Ralphs, and Albertsons—led by Safeway CEO Steve Burd have forced 70,000 Southern California supermarket workers into the streets in an attempt to effectively eliminate their health care benefits.

Safeway and the other supermarkets have knowingly misled the public about the impact of their demands that would “end affordable health care” for new employees” [and] “drastically curtail covered benefits or increase employee-paid premiums to unaffordable levels” for current employees, according to health care benefits experts E. Richard Brown, PhD., and Richard Kronick, PhD.

The supermarket workers are engaged in a righteous struggle, fighting to save health care benefits, not just for their families, but all working families. After more than 100 days on the picket line, they have sacrificed everything for this cause.

Safeway/Vons and the other grocers are some of the largest and most profitable supermarkets in the world. Yet they would push dedicated, productive employees from work to welfare for their medical protection.

The supermarket workers are our friends, neighbors, and congregants. Our children ride the school bus with their children. We cannot stand idly by and witness the devastation of their families. We cannot allow the devastation of our communities that comes with the loss of family health care coverage.

We will take the cause of the supermarket workers directly to the Safeway boardroom and executive offices—wherever they may be—seeking the economic justice the workers deserve.

We urge Safeway and the other markets to deal fairly and honestly with their employees. We pray they return to the bargaining table to negotiate a just settlement.

— 30 —

For more information, contact Reverend William Jarvis Johnson, senior clergy organizer, 213-268-4821 www.cluela.org

December 19, 2003

Food Workers Union Offers Good Faith Gesture to Start Negotiations

Supermarket Employers Challenged to Match Good Faith Move with End of Lockout

In a dramatic gesture to reopen negotiations, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) announced today that its local unions would remove picket lines from distribution/warehouse facilities at Ralphs, Albertsons and Safeway/Vons.   The move coincides with the renewal of negotiations on Friday, December 19, 2003.

The lines at the distribution/warehouse facilities will be removed on Monday, December 22, 2003.

UFCW leaders from the seven local unions involved in the dispute offered their thanks and appreciation to the 8,000 Teamster members for their personal sacrifice in the fight for affordable health care.

UFCW International President Doug Dority also added his appreciation; “We have never seen such solidarity amongst workers in the supermarket industry as has been displayed by members of the Teamsters union.   On behalf of all UFCW members, we extend our thanks and best wishes for the holidays,” said Dority.

Teamsters President James P. Hoffa said that “”The Teamsters will continue to honor picket lines at the retail outlets because our members know that the UFCW’s fight is our fight.””

The UFCW immediately challenged the employers to match the good faith move with an end to the lockout of workers at Ralphs and Albertsons.

The Southern California supermarket strike/lockout began on October 11, 2003 in response to employer demands for the elimination of health benefits.    Workers struck Safeway/Vons; Ralphs and Albertsons immediately locked out workers in support of Safeway.

On November 24, 2003, the UFCW extended picket lines to the distribution/warehouse facilities of these employers and asked Teamsters to honor those picket lines.   The Teamster lines effectively shut down the supply system that had been keeping the near-abandoned stores stocked.  The stores were empty of both product and customers.

On Tuesday at a national solidarity summit, UFCW representatives from across North America pledged their support to both fund the strike and increase the level of activity targeting Safeway operations across the U.S. and Canada.

The union’s move in taking down picket lines indicates the UFCW’s commitment to the bargaining process while preparing for a long battle ahead should the employers refuse to reach a fair and equitable agreement.  UFCW local unions are presenting a comprehensive proposal as the renewed negotiations begin.  (Reminder, a news blackout continues at the request of the Federal Mediator.  No comments will be made concerning the specifics of the bargaining process.)

December 19, 2003

UFCW North American Summit Mobilizes Support For Southern California Supermarket Strike

Following Summit Announcement, 5,000+ Striking and Locked Out Grocery Workers to be Joined by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, UFCW President Doug Dority, and 400+ UFCW Local Union Presidents from across US and Canada in historic march from Century City to grocery store in Beverly Hills

On Tuesday, December 16, 2003, 400+ UFCW local union presidents from across the country and Canada will meet in Century City to discuss ways of supporting the Southern California local unions whose 70,000 members have been on strike or locked out since October 11th.

The private meeting will begin at 8:30 AM at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City. At 10:30 AM, the meeting will be open to the press.

At 12 o’clock noon, the leaders will join 5,000+ striking and locked out grocery workers on the street for a march to a Pavilions store in Beverly Hills. This will be the largest demonstration since the strike and lockout began and will send a strong message to consumers that they should not shop at Vons, Pavilions, or Albertsons this holiday season.

More details to be released on Monday.

When: Tuesday, December 16; 10:30 a.m. for Summit Meeting Announcement; 12 noon for March

What: Summit Announcement with major national leaders from Labor, Religious, Women’s, and Entertainment communities; March from the Century Plaza Hotel to a Pavilions store in Beverly Hills

Who: 5,000+ Southern California striking and locked out grocery workers, Doug Dority, President, UFCW International, John Sweeney, President, AFL-CIO, Miguel Contreras, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, L.A. County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, Entertainment industry celebrity activists (names TBA)Religious leaders (names TBA), Elected officials (names TBA)

Where: March will begin at the Century Plaza hotel, 2025 Avenue of the Stars, Century City, and proceed to the Pavilions store at 9467 W Olympic Blvd.


December 16, 2003

Are the Supermarket Employers Lying About Their Health Plan?

Health Benefits Experts Challenge Supermarket Employer Claims

Ad Campaign Launches Tuesday, December 16th.

View Ad  (pdf)

Striking supermarket workers continue to expose Safeway’s ‘big lie’ about the health care issues driving the three-month long strike in Southern California.  The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) will run full-page advertisements in the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, Bakersfield Californian and the San Diego Union Tribune.

The ad reprints an editorial written by health benefits experts, E. Richard Brown, Director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, and Richard Kronick, a Professor in the Department of Family and Preventative Medicine at UC-San Diego.  Their analysis, titled “Supermarkets ‘Offer’ to End Affordable Health Care,” appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on December 8, 2003.

“It’s time we put an end to Safeway’s big lie about the health care proposals.  Brown and Kronick explain better than anyone exactly how the supermarkets’ proposals would mean and end to health benefits in this industry,” said Doug Dority, UFCW International President.

View Ad (pdf)

December 9, 2003

Holding the Line for Health Care: Support Builds with Labor Movement Contributions

Today, Southern California supermarket workers’ fight to hold the line for health care in the supermarket industry got a major boost with sizeable contributions from  the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers-Communications Workers of America (IUE-CWA) and the American Income Life Insurance Company (AIL).   The 70,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union have been on strike since October 11, 2003 against Safeway, Kroger and Albertsons.

 UFCW International President Doug Dority holding the line at a Safeway store in Washington, DC, joined IUE-CWA President Edward Fire and AIL Vice President Jules Pagano.

IUE-CWA President Edward Fire met with strikers on the picket lines at a Washington, DC, Safeway store and presented his union’s $100,000 contribution to the Hold the Line for Health Care Strike Fund.

“We stand in full support of the UFCW members’ fight to maintain health care benefits.   We fought this same battle with General Electric earlier this year and employers across the country continue the attack on system of health care at work. We need a national public policy solution so that workers and their families no longer have to walk the streets to maintain access to health care,” said Fire.

As the Industrial Division of the Communications Workers of America, the IUE-CWA represents 80,000 manufacturing workers including 14,000 workers at General Electric.

Roger Smith, President, American Income Life, along with Jules Pagano, Vice President, and Hugh Walsh, Assistant Vice President, presented strikers with a $10,000 contribution from AIL and pledged to contribute $10,000 per month for the duration of the strike.

“”AIL, a wall to wall union company, feels we have a responsibility to support working families and we are proud to support the UFCW in this national fight to hold the line for health care,”” said Jules Pagano, AIL Vice President.

AIL is a nationally recognized insurance carrier that provides services and policies to labor unions and working families.  Headquartered in Waco, Texas, American Income is licensed in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, and New Zealand.

The Transportation Communications International Union (TCU) also pledged a $15,000 contribution to the Hold the Line for Health Care Strike Fund.  TCU President Robert Scardelletti also sent a letter to all TCU local unions encouraging additional contributions.




December 4, 2003

Entertainment Industry Unions & Celebrities to Join Striking and Locked Out Grocery Workers on Picket Line

For immediate release Dec. 2, 2003

UFCW Locals 770 and 1442, AFL-CIO, CLC

As mediated negotiations continue…

Los Angeles, CA (12/2/03)  On Thursday, December 4 at 10:30 a.m., AFTRA, SAG, and other entertainment industry unions will join striking and locked out grocery workers on the picket line at Pavilions in Burbank. Highlights include:

  • SAG President Melissa Gilbert
  • AFTRA President John Connolly
  • Representatives of IATSE, Cinematographers Union (IA Local 600), SEIU, and NABET/CWA
  • Actors Ed Asner (“Elf”), Esai Morales (“NYPD Blue,” “American Family”), Ingrid Oliu (“Real Women Have Curves”), Mitch Ryan (“Liar Liar”), Kurtwood Smith (“That 70’s Show”), Soledad St Hilaire (“Real Women Have Curves”), and Richard Thomas (“The Walton’s,” PAX’s “”Just Cause””) – all actors’ appearances tentative subject to film scheduling.
  • The musical group Lowen & Navarro and members of Quetzal will perform.
  • Participants are being asked to bring an unwrapped toy to donate to the children of UFCW workers for the holidays.


  • Press conference and rally of entertainment industry unions in support of striking and locked out grocery workers
  • Holiday toy drive for children of striking and locked out grocery workers
  • Musical entertainment


  • SAG, AFTRA, IATSE, Cinematographers Union (IA Local 600), SEIU, and NABET/CWA
  • Celebrity actors
  • Miguel Contreras, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
  • The musical group Lowen & Navarro and members of Quetzal
  • Striking and locked out grocery workers


Pavilions, 1110 West Alameda St., Burbank (near Main Street)


Thursday, December 4, 2003, 11:00 a.m.

(picketing begins at 10:30 a.m.; press conference/rally starts at 11:30 a.m.)

December 4, 2003

California Congressman Challenges Safeway

Congressman Tom Lantos (CA-12) has challenged Safeway’s claims that the company is only seeking modest changes in employee health benefits in the Southern California supermarket strike.

In a letter to Safeway CEO, Steve Burd, the California congressman went straight to the heart of the matter:

“”I have reviewed Safeway’s benefit funding proposal for new hires…on your company’s web site. Your proposal will not provide any substantial benefits for new employees…it is obvious your intent is to eliminate health benefits in the future.””

Safeway and two supermarket operators have waged a misinformation campaign designed to convince workers and the public that the grocery giants were only asking that current employees make a modest co-payment of $5 to $15 a week for comprehensive health benefits. The Lantos letter stripped away the facade from the companies campaign:

“”You conveniently ignore the impact of segregating new hires from current employees (a key component of the companies’ proposals is to eliminate any meaningful benefits for new employees)…As employees are replaced, the funding base will shrink until benefits ( for current employees) have to be cut or co-pays increased well beyond $5 to $15 a week.””

Both new and current employees would ultimately wind up with excessive co-pays, scaled back benefits and finally the effective elimination of benefits. Lantos directly challenged the veracity of company statements on the impact of Safeway’s proposal, “”Mr. Burd, it appears your company is lying to workers, consumers and the public.””

“”The bottom line,”” according to the Congressman,””is that 70,000 jobs that now come with affordable family health coverage will not come with that coverage in the future.””

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) released today the letter dated November 21, 2003. Click here to read the full text of the letter.

December 4, 2003

UFCW Unions in Southern California Sue Albertsons and Ralphs for Violation of

Seven UFCW unions in Southern California on strike against Vons supermarkets today filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Albertsons and Ralphs for
violation of the California Mass Layoff Notification Law (California Labor Code: Section 1400).

The law, passed in 2002, requires that each and every employee individually be given 60 days’ notice prior to any mass layoff. In the current labor/management dispute between seven Southern California UFCW locals, there is a strike against Vons. Ralphs and Albertsons have locked out their employees.

The suit says that no notice of the intent to lockout was given by Ralphs and Albertsons and seeks the back pay and health care and pension payments for 60 days that is stipulated in the law. The unions estimate that the amount owed their union members locked out by the two employers exceeds several hundred million dollars.

The employers have 30 days to respond to the lawsuit.