About 1,500 members of a San Diego meatcutters union will vote today to decide whether to join five other Southern California unions in a strike against major supermarkets if a contract agreement is not reached by Nov. 4.
Seymour Glassman, president of Local 229A of the Amalgamated Meatcutters Union, said workers will to vote at strike authorization meetings in San Diego and El Centro. The union's San Diego members will vote at meetings scheduled for 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. at Carpenter's Hall on Broadway.
Union locals representing 10,000 meatcutters and meat wrappers from San Diego to Santa Barbara began taking strike authorization votes Sunday. Local 229A recently voted to merge with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. A UFCWU spokesman in Los Angeles said that five Los Angeles-area locals voted Sunday to strike if no progress is made on the stalled talks before the contract expires Nov. 3.
Glassman said a federal mediator was brought in last week to help the union and the Food Employers Council resolve major differences in the talks. According to Glassman, a principal issue is the employer council's proposal to reduce the guaranteed workday from eight hours to four hours.
"The companies want to gut the contract. Their attitude is that this is what they want, take it or leave it. . . . It looks like the companies want a strike. Well, we want to avoid one at all costs, and it's in their ballpark now," said Glassman.
Management also wants to eliminate present contract language that calls for a journeyman meatcutter to be on duty at all times. Employer council spokesmen say that is "featherbedding" and say meatcutters are not needed during late hours in supermarkets that are open 24 hours.
Neither side has submitted wage proposals yet. Union spokesmen say they first want to resolve what they say are management's proposals to undermine longstanding working conditions and fringe benefits. Journeyman meatcutters make about $13 an hour.
Negotiators for the UFCWU and the Food Employers Council will meet again Friday with the federal mediator. Glassman said both sides will meet in Los Angeles at a Wilshire area hotel to continue the talks.
The Teamsters Union also is involved in negotiations with supermarket management for a new contract for more than 12,000 warehouse workers and drivers. Negotiators for management have been meeting with Teamsters representatives on Tuesdays and Thursdays and with the UFCWU on Wednesdays and Fridays. It was not known Wednesday whether the federal mediator is also involved in management's talks with the Teamsters, but the Teamsters have yet to take a strike authorization vote.
The Food Employers Council is negotiating for Albertson's, Alpha Beta, Boys' Markets, Foods Co., Hughes Markets, Food Basket, Ralphs Grocery Co., Safeway, Stater Bros. and Vons. Independent markets would not be affected by a strike.