November 7, 2003

Strike effects leak into other arenas

By Joseph Peña

Customers, employees and corporations aren’t the only ones feeling the effects of the UFCW strike on Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons stores in southern California.

The Y-Me National Breast Cancer Organization’s San Diego affiliate will lose more that $65,000 in donations from Vons as a result of the strike.

The loss may be significant enough that the organization will have to close its doors this year, according to Kathy Hudson, the executive director for Y-Me San Diego.

“We love Vons, we love Vons employees and we feel terrible for both parties involved in the strike,” said Hudson. “It’s just unfortunate for the program that this had to happen in October.”

The partnership between Y-Me and Safeway’s Inc.’s Vons started in 2001. In 2002, from Y-Me and store-organized projects, Vons employees raised approximately $70,000 from customers for the organization. This year, Y-Me projects a $4,000 donation from the stores.

The money from last year’s donations funded two new Y-Me projects and allowed the organization to hire more staff. Y-Me is the only breast cancer organization with a bilingual hotline in southern California. The organization serves in all communities but a large number of women are served in medically under-served neighborhoods.

In October, Vons also raises money for breast cancer organizations including the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Burback, Simi Valley and Covina.

A Vons representative was unavailable for comment.

According to a statement by Tom Keller, president of Vons, the store has a long-standing commitment to find a cure for breast cancer.

The UFCW strike against Safeway Inc.’s Vons stores, Kroger Co.’s Ralphs stores, and Albertsons stores began Oct. 1.

The UFCW represents 70,000 Southern California grocery workers in more than 730 stores in the region More than 97 percent of UFCW members approved the strike in a vote on Oct. 8.

Vons stores are the target of the strike and have been called the “holdout” in contract negotiations. Saturday, the UFCW pulled picketers from Ralphs stores and diverted them to lines in front of Vons and Albertsons stores, said Mickey Kasparian, president of UFCW local 135, in a press conference.

Kasparian said Kroger’s Ralphs has been the most reasonable in negotiations.

In negotiations, companies proposed an added health care premium, a first for UFCW members. Workers would be required to pay $5-15 per week for health care benefits. The companies have attributed the premium to rising costs of health care, but the UFCW is calling the move “corporate greed.”

The companies’ proposal would also increase the amount workers pay for doc-tor’s visits, prescriptions and hospital stays. Also, the companies would contribute less to workers’ pension plans.

Employees are advised to picket stores during their scheduled shifts, according to a UFCW hotline.

Hudson hopes to make up for Y-Me’s loss during breast cancer awareness month with a Mothers Day campaign.

“It isn’t just about the month of October,” said Hudson. “Breast cancer doesn’t go away.”

Y-Me San Diego will sponsor the Swim a Mile for Women with Cancer swim-a-thon on Nov. 16 from noon to 4 p.m. at Mt. Carmel High School Pool. The cost f registering for the event is $25 for adults and $15 for youth. For more information, contact (769) 839-1491.

Joey Pena is an intern for the UCSD San Diego EXPORT Center and is a journalism student at Point Loma Nazarene University. The San Diego EXPORT Center is a partnership of organizations focusing on community minority health and health disparities research.

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