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Grocery Strike From Workers' Viewpoint

November 02, 2003

Re "Grocery Dispute: What Do Workers Get in the Bargain?" Oct. 26:

Ray Uhler took the time to write his opinion of the grocery strike but neglected to do the same for checking the facts. I have been a grocery clerk for more than 25 years. While it is true that a journeyman clerk can earn more than $17 per hour, the majority of us do not. In order to keep our benefits, we have accepted several changes in the division of labor that allow clerks to work as checkers a percentage of the time at a lower pay rate. It also permits managers to use clerks from the general merchandise department to take over work previously done by grocery clerks at, of course, a lesser wage.

Three-quarters of us are part time, and a large portion of us make less than $10 per hour. Sorry, Ray, but Sunday pay is not double time, it's time-and-a-half.

Our employers have maintained that our hourly rate was actually several dollars an hour more if you added in our health benefits, and we do not disagree. We are not cave dwellers; we all realize the huge cost of adequate health coverage. However, the proposal offered to us would increase our co-pay at the doctor's office substantially, have large yearly deductibles, and triple our prescription costs. In addition to this, management would like to implement a new pay scale for new hires, paying them less to work side by side with us, and increase the length of time between classification promotions.

We are not striking over a meager $5 to $15 weekly premium co-payment!

Mary Franklin-Young

Huntington Beach

*

Is $5 all it will take? In response to the third full-page ad taken out in the L.A. Times by the "Big 3," I just might have found a solution to end our Southern California grocery strike. I have collected four $5 bills from each of my fellow employees. We are willing to submit that $20, in advance, for payment of our continued health care benefits. The employees would be happy to start working tomorrow under the contract that ended Oct. 5. Strike over?

Is their claim of a $5 weekly employee contribution, in fact, the only factor that keeps us from moving forward and getting the employees back to work, or is this just another opportunity to lie to the customer and attack the employees?

Kim Zander

Buena Park

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