Workers all want the same thing. Some security. Some dignity. Some respect. The problem often seems to be that for so many, even after a lifetime of hard work, we don’t get what we need, far less what we deserve. That’s where having a union can make a difference. A union is nothing more than a collection of working people, coming together around a common vision and taking a stand. Increasingly our membership at UFCW 770 has been doing just that and we are making progress – together.
The gains that we are making today haven’t come out of the blue. Progress has come from our acting together, here in Southern California, and around the nation. Over the past year, we’ve been steadily building strength within our Local. We’ve welcomed 400 new members into our union family from the cannabis industry, and 2 La Colombe coffee shops.
We continue to fight for packinghouse workers and have filed grievances on behalf of members at Overhill Farms and Palisades Ranch. With the latter, we prevailed in a dispute over vacation and workers will get back pay and get their vacations as they hit a milestone rather than waiting a year.
Our members have boldly voiced their concerns about critical issues, such as the potential Kroger and Albertsons merger, workplace safety, and the staffing crisis at Kaiser. We’ve proudly stood shoulder to shoulder with fellow workers, joining picket lines to support the WGA, SAG-AFTRA, and UNITE HERE strikes during the Hot Labor Summer. And we’ve pushed for legislation to safeguard our rights and livelihood, whether at work or in the community.
All of this serves as a testament to one undeniable fact: UFCW 770 members are a powerful force for change and have a track record of success.
Now, we’re gearing up for the upcoming contract negotiations at Food 4 Less, Foodsco, CVS, Rite Aid, Albertsons, Vons, Ralphs, Gelson’s, and Stater Bros. These contract negotiations will be led by individuals just like you – our members. You will sit at the negotiating table across from your employer and share your stories with the community. You’ll talk to your coworkers. You will build the strength to take on these major employers and win some dignity, security and respect.
None of these gains are won in a single year or a single contract fight. We stand on the shoulders of those who came and fought before us. Like in all of our lives, sometimes it is a clear win, such as the historic gains in wages we won in the 2022 contract negotiations with the big grocery chains. Other times life is a bruising battle such as twenty years ago when the same big grocery chains were determined to break the union and workers fought back when nearly 60,000 grocery workers in Southern California went on strike or were locked out by their employer. We were fighting to maintain our healthcare, pension, and improve our wages. The strike lasted 141 days. That was a tough time, but we as workers were able to make it clear that the company, even with all their illegal tricks, were not going to break our union and we were going to fight on for another day.
As we mark that strike’s 20th anniversary we see it in the light of an arc in history instead of a single battle. The resolve of those tens of thousands of workers, and our millions of community supporters in 2003 is directly linked to the many struggles and strikes of 2023.
The strike was a turning point, not just for those involved but for the entire industry. It sent a clear message to supermarket companies nationwide that they could not afford to dismiss the rights and demands of their workers. This, in turn, led to better contracts, improved working conditions, and fairer treatment for grocery store employees across the United States.
In the aftermath of the strike, grocery store workers embarked on a journey to build our union into a formidable force. Through organizing, education, and solidarity, we are transforming our union into a tireless powerhouse for workers’ rights and fair labor practices. This is only possible when members take the lead at every step as we build our vision and strategy for the future. Workers have won huge gains in store safety, historic contract gains, and legislative victories.
The impact of the 2003/2004 strike was felt far beyond Southern California. It ignited a spark that galvanized the labor movement across the nation. Other workers, inspired by the resilience of those who stood up during the grocery strike, began to assert their own rights, contributing to a broader strengthening of labor unions and better contracts for workers in various sectors throughout the United States.
Today, we honor the legacy of the grocery strike, and the lasting legacy of the tens of thousands of grocery store workers and all essential workers who pulled our region through the Covid 19 pandemic. These examples serve as reminders that unity and determination can help our community get through the most difficult of times. And they underscore the enduring power when workers come together in solidarity and make our voices heard, even in the face of powerful corporate interests that would put their extreme profit ahead of our health and safety.
As we commemorate the anniversary of the 2003-2004 grocery strike, the pandemic of 2020-2022 that took over a million lives nationwide, and so many other struggles whether personal or social, let us draw strength from the lessons learned during challenging times. Let it be a reminder that, when united and unwavering in our determination, we have the strength to create positive change for workers everywhere.
UFCW 770 is here to empower all workers – in our union and in our broader community – showing everyone that workers collectively taking thoughtful and targeted action can secure much of the security, respect and dignity we all deserve.
If you’re eager to play a more active role in our upcoming meetings and campaigns, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Union Representative or Steward. This battle transcends any one of us, but together, we wield far more power than any corporation.