UFCW takes health care strike against Safeway nationwide

From Southern California to Canada and across the United States, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) activists and their allies are planning actions and asking shoppers to stay away from Safeway grocery stores.

Safeway’s chief executive officer Steve Burd is leading a coalition of grocers demanding deep cuts in workers’ health coverage as well as lower wages for new hires.

The success of the union movement-wide “Hold the Line for Health Care” campaign is important to all workers, whether or not they are represented by a union, said Jenifer Riddagh, a UFCW Local 1036 member and 29-year veteran of Safeway-owned Vons stores in Southern California. “What happens to us will affect everyone’s ability to purchase not just affordable but adequate health care,” she said. “All employers are going to take a cue from what happens with us. If we go down on health care, everybody goes down.”

In Los Angeles, 10,000 union activists and allies turned out Dec. 16 to support the 70,000 grocery workers locked-out since mid-October. They have been joined on the picket lines by members of the Teamsters.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, UFCW President Douglas Dority, Screen Actors President Melissa Gilbert and other union leaders rallied with workers and Southern California community and religious activists as they announced picket expansions and boycotts throughout North America.

“We want to empty the stores as well as the cash drawers,” Dority said. “Safeway only understands money, so we will take action to cut them off from the source of their money — workers, consumers and communities.”

On Dec. 23 at the Roxy Theatre on Los Angeles’ famed Sunset Strip musicians, including Tom Morello and Brad Wilk of Audioslave, Serj Tankian of System of a Down, Boots Riley of The Coup and Lester Chambers of the Chambers Brothers, performed at a UFCW workers’ benefit concert.

Concert host Janeane Garafolo also hosted the recent AFL-CIO-sponsored “Tell Us the Truth” music and rap national tour featuring Billy Bragg, Steve Earle, Chambers and other top artists.

At Tigard, Oregon,-based UFCW Local 555, the union has contracts covering the vast majority of Safeway Stores in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

“Each of those contracts prohibit us from taking economic action, including boycotting, at any union store,” said Local 555 President Gene Pronovost. “But, Safeway does operate non-union at several locations in our jurisdiction. We have conducted informational picketing at many of these locations in the past, and they remain eligible for future informational pickets.”

Donations to striking families may be made online through the AFL-CIO or sent to the UFCW Strike Hardship Fund; Attention: Secretary-Treasurer Joe Hansen; 1775 K St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006.

The non-union Safeway locations in Local 555’s Oregon and Southwest Washington jurisdiction are:

Safeway Beaverton #2631
Murray Hill
14555 SW Teal Blvd.

Safeway Bend #1888
320 W. Century Blvd.

Safeway Canby #2604
1051 SW 1st Ave.

Safeway Corvallis #1690
590 NE Circle Blvd.

Safeway Medford #1643
3469 Crater Lake Hwy.

Safeway Newberg #2623
1140 N Springbrook Rd.

Safeway Philomath #1765
5270 SW Philomath Blvd

Safeway Salem #1935
5660 Commercial SE

Safeway Sherwood #1800
20685 Roy Rogers Rd.

Safeway Vancouver #1653
Burton area
2615 NE 112th Ave.

Safeway Vancouver #1704
Fourth Plain
6700 NE 162 Ave.

Safeway Vancouver #1842
Salmon Creek
13023 NE Hwy 99

Safeway West Linn #1713
22000 Salamo Road

Safeway Woodland #1762
1725 Pacific Hwy.

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