Grocery Workers Union Files Suit Against Chain For Hiring Back Workers

January 6, 2004 ( - The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) has filed suit against a Southern California supermarket chain for allegedly hiring back striking grocery workers under false names and Social Security numbers.

The union said it had evidence from 50 to 100 striking workers that Ralphs has been hiring back workers, and then instructed them to use the fictitious identifiers for themselves and their dependant children. The UFCW filed the suit in Los Angeles Superior Court last week, two union spokeswomen confirmed to Reuters.

In the suit, the union is requesting Ralphs correct falsified payroll records submitted to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the California Franchise Tax Board and the Unemployment Insurance Fund of California. Additionally, the UFCW is asking that the Kroger Co-subsidiary pay all its litigation costs and correct its members’ payroll records.

The labor brouhaha began in October 2003 when workers went on strike at Safeway Inc. subsidiaries Vons and Pavilions were locked out by two other chains, Ralphs and Albertson’s, under an agreement with Safeway. Following a month-long stalemate, representatives of both sides began meeting with a federal mediator in November. However, talks between the union and the supermarket chains broke off in December after little progress was made on the main issue of health benefits. To date, no new talks have been scheduled.

In addition to legal action brought the UFCW against Ralphs, two pension funds also filed suit against Safeway for investment losses related to the strike. The pension funds, Pinellas Park General Employees’ Pension Fund and the Pompano Beach Police & Firefighters Retirement System, are suing Safeway’s management and board, alleging the company has been decimated due to rampant conflicts of interest, managerial bungling, deceit, and greed. The pension funds, represented by Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, say shareholder damages could run as high as $14.5 billion, in civil complaints filed in November in San Mateo County Superior Court (See Pension Funds Sue Grocery Chain ).