"If we lose this fight, it will break the union," said Harry
Terbarsegyan, a 22-year employee of Ralphs who is striking along with
his wife, an 18-year Ralphs employee.
Officials from the Kroger Co., which owns Ralphs, said that all of
its stores in Southern California were open while thousands of local
temporary workers and managers from other divisions of the company
replaced locked-out employees.
Picketers vowed to keep going.
"As long as we stay united, we'll be out here," said Dena Weston,
a Vons employee at the Glendale Avenue store. "But we don't have a
hostile picket line here."
Workers announced the strike Saturday, adding that they would
target Vons markets for walkouts. But a strike against one was a
walkout against all of the grocery stores, according to company
officials who had earlier agreed that employees from the other two
stores would be locked out as a defensive tactic.
Management has said that employee benefit packages remain
competitive in a tough compensation market.
"As responsible companies, we are seeking nothing more than a fair
contract that will help us to remain competitive in the face of
soaring health-care and benefit costs and increased competition from
lower-cost operators," Ralphs President John Burgon released in a
statement last week.
Employees stressed that they are not after higher wages, but
preserving health-care benefits.
Teamsters' union drivers are supporting the strike, but on Monday
afternoon no picketing could be seen around the Ralphs distribution
plant off San Fernando Road.