by Photo courtesy of United Food and Commercial Workers Union

More than 47,000 grocery store workers in Chula Vista and throughout Southern California are voting to start today to decide whether to strike.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union will announce the result of the vote on Sunday.

According to the union, if the negotiations with Ralphs, Vons, Pavillion, Albertson's do not advance, if the majority of the workers vote in favor of the strike, it will begin the same Sunday, March 26.

The more than 47,000 workers belong to seven UFCW unions, and their representation extends from the north of Los Angeles to the border with Mexico.

The union demands to renew for three years a collective contract that expired on March 7.

While the workers threatened to start the strike on March 26 potentially, the Ralphs company reported in a statement that it proposes to restart negotiations on Wednesday, March 30.

Ralphs offers to renew the wage contract but keep the same health benefits.

"We will continue to do all we can to balance investments in associate wages and general well-being while keeping food affordable for our customers," Robert Branton, Ralphs's vice president of operations, said.

He assured that "our current offer adds to our associates' paychecks while providing them with premium health care coverage and a company-funded pension, which many competitors do not offer."

The union, for its part, declared in a statement at the expiration of the previous collective agreement that it wants to "raise wages fairly and improve store conditions, to reflect the needs of workers in a pandemic and post-pandemic world."

According to the union, the companies have offered wage increases that translate into cents, insufficient in the face of inflation.

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