Grocery chains look to hire as strike looms

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By NANCY LUNA / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

With supermarket union members poised to vote Friday on authorizing a strike,
Albertsons and Vons have begun seeking job applicants in case employees walk out.
"We are recruiting temporary replacement workers as a purely defensive measure in
response to repeated statements from the unions threatening a possible strike," Vons
spokesman Daymond Rice said Thursday.
An Albertsons in Orange seeks job applicants to fill void in the event of a union strike.
NANCY LUNA, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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Fred Muir, a spokesman for Albertsons,  said the chain began posting signs
advertising for temporary workers on Tuesday.  Albertsons has 42 stores in Orange
County.
"We have a responsibility to continue serving our customers in the unfortunate event
that union leadership does call a strike,"  Muir said Thursday.  "We have started to
advertise for temporary replacement workers, and we have contingency plans in place
if a strike is called. We hope we don't have to use these plans. We hope that a strike
never happens. That decision is in the hands of the union leadership."
A representative for Ralphs, which has 50 stores in Orange County, said the chain has
not called for posting help wanted signs at this stage in the negotiations.
"While we may have to post them in the future, we remain committed, along with
Albertsons and Vons, to reaching a contract that is good for our employees and keeps
these union jobs sustainable for the future," company spokeswoman Kendra Doyel said.
On Friday, union members will vote to either accept or reject the current proposed
package. The main sticking point for weeks has been health care benefits. By rejecting
the package, union members authorize a strike.
However, the supermarket chains can still come back with a better offer. The union will
give the chains a deadline to do that. If not, union members could decide to give
immediate notice to strike and then strike 72 hours later, union reps have said.
In 2003, Vons workers went on strike and Ralphs and Albertsons locked out their union
 employees. The strike lasted more than four months and cost the grocers an estimated
$1.5 billion.



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