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The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) in Southern California is using its political clout to pressure the area’s three major supermarket chains – Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons – to sign a contract that will raise wages and benefits for their unionized employees.

The strategy is running concurrently with the ongoing negotiations to reach a new contract agreement before a lockout-strike leads to anything close to the 141-day lockout-strike that roiled the market three years ago.

“The Los Angeles City Council held a hearing to highlight the lack of major grocery stores in poor areas of the city — a situation that labor officials and community groups say is an example of ‘redlining’,” the Times reports. “The city also has arranged to hire a consultant to study the employment and business practices of grocery stores.

“And throughout the region, elected officials are passing resolutions in support of the workers and raising the possibility of challenging the liquor licenses of grocery stores or blocking permits they seek for parking or expansions.”

Even Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) has gotten involved, according to the Times, writing “pointed letters to grocery chain executives this month in which she mentioned that she had found her son Doug's pay stub from his time as a Lucky supermarket clerk in 1986. Adjusting for inflation, a clerk in the same position as her son today makes $4.86 an hour less than he did, Boxer wrote.”

These political efforts are not new in Southern California, the Times reports. “In Los Angeles, city officials have been willing to make demands of grocery stores. After the supermarket strike and lockout three years ago, the City Council passed an ordinance requiring that workers be retained for at least 90 days when a grocery store changes owners. The chains have contested that law in court.”
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