are asking for workers to take cuts in health benefits and salaries.
Talks between the union and the supermarket chains resumed over the
Many of the picketers at the rally said they are feeling the sting
of having to do without their regular pay for so long.
"I can only keep this up for about a month more," said Carlos
Huelga, a night worker for Ralphs, which, along with Albertsons, has
locked out its employees. "I have a new house. I might have to take a
part-time job if the strike doesn't end [soon]," he said.
Susan Bates brought home $450 a week as a checker for Vons, but
since the strike began, the union has been paying her $150 a week.
"I have three teenagers at home and the holidays are coming up,"
she said. "I can't continue like this too much longer."
Union representative Jesse Martel praised the picketers for their
"Our slogan is, 'One day longer, one day stronger,'" he said.
In the face of 50% cuts in medical benefits, workers have to make
a stand, he added. The companies are looking to cut benefits and
other costs as a way to remain competitive against retail giant
Wal-Mart, which is planning a major expansion of its Supercenter
stores in California in 2004. The stores include fully formed
supermarkets that offer items and prices lower than in traditional
Taking time out of a special legislative session called by newly
sworn-in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Scott addressed the picketers
and vowed he would not shop at Wal-Mart or the markets they were
"I won't patronize Wal-Mart because of how it treats its
employees," he said, adding that Wal-Mart-like benefits would be a
step backward. The UCFW alleges that Wal-Mart, whose employees are
not unionized, pays lesser wages than supermarket chains and provides
minimal health coverage.
Scott's declaration drew loud cheers from the picketers.
"You stand here with a long history behind you," he told them. "It
was strikes that won a better life for the working people."
Schiff called for a quick resolution to the strike.
"We need to get you back to work so that you can continue to
support your families," he said.