Striking Chicago Grocery Workers to 'Walk and Work'

November 15, 2002 ( - The emotional level on an already bitter Chicago area contract dispute between a grocery store chain and a grocery workers union over pension and benefit issues among others is getting ratcheted up even higher.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which represents 8,900 Dominick’s Finer Foods workers, plans to take its case to the shopping public by urging them not patronize Dominick’s. The union also contends the latest proposal from Dominick’s owner Safeway would also slash their wages, the Tribune said.

The UFCW revealed the “walk and work” strategy Thursday after California-based Safeway rejected a short-term contract proposal from the group. That proposal was based on a move by Safeway – which has complained about Dominick’s performance – to sell Dominick’s to an operator that would recognize the UFCW, the Tribune story said.  

A union suggestion to carry forward the contract terms for six months   “would have cooled down the situation and allowed Safeway a golden opportunity to get the best value from Dominick’s market appeal in the Chicago area,” Ken Boyd, president of UFCW Local 1546, said in a statement, according to the Tribune.

Pushing for a wide range of concessions it claims it needs to reach labor-cost parity with Albertson Inc.’s Jewel-Osco, Safeway last Monday announced it would close stores and liquidate the Dominick’s chain if workers went on strike.

The threat didn’t sway the union, which claims it has contacted three industry operators that expressed an interest in buying the grocery store chain. Safeway has said no prospective buyers have approached it.

The union claims the company would:

  • cut healthcare coverage altogether for a group of workers;
  • pay less than half the cost of healthcare coverage for new employees while also cutting starting pay; and,
  • would shift the majority of cost increases onto current employees or force benefit cuts.