UFCW5 Strike

UFCW Members Applaud Re-introduction of Unemployment Insurance for Striking Workers Legislation

Sacramento, CA – The 180,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Western States Council applaud Senators Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank) and Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) for re-introducing priority labor legislation SB 799 to allow union members on strike for at least two weeks to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits. In 2019, AB 1066 (Gonzalez) failed to pass the legislature by two votes and working people have been suffering since.

“My daughter was born in 2003 on the second day of the Southern California grocery workers’ strike with serious heart problems,” said Rob O’Connell, a food clerk/cashier at Vons in Glendora and member of UFCW Local 1428. “Luckily my union provided health insurance for six months, but I struggled to pay my mortgage, childcare for my other five-year-old daughter and for food and utilities and wiped out my savings. I had put in 11 years of blood, sweat and tears working for Vons since 1992, and paid into the unemployment insurance fund. If striking workers were eligble for unemployment insurance, it would be one less thing they would have to worry about to provide for their families. This bill is sorely needed.”

Striking is the last resort of workers working to influence working conditions, but employers keep too many workers in fear because they are one paycheck away from missing the rent or a car payment. SB 799 will ensure workers can stand up for the workplace justice they deserve.

“In 2003 while I was working at Vons in Inglewood, we were on strike for months fighting for a better salary and benefits. I had a toddler at that time and wasn’t prepared to be without an income for months. I was already living paycheck to paycheck and I had to choose between feeding my daughter or buying diapers,” said Maribel Luviano, a service operation manager at Vons in Long Beach and member of UFCW Local 324. “I lost out on buying a home and got behind on my car payments while I was out on strike. Being eligible for unemployment insurance would have made such a difference in my life and my daughter’s life at that time, and all workers fighting for fair treatment deserve to be eligible.”

“In 2003 my coworkers and I were locked out when we stood in solidarity with striking Vons employees. Unlike today, workers on lockout were turned down if we applied for unemployment and we struggled financially,” says Los Angeles Ralphs worker and member of UFCW Local 770 Erasmo Perez. “My two children got ill during the lockout and it was devastating to not have medical insurance or unemployment benefits; I ended up with a huge financial debt to be able to survive. Workers on strike should have a right to unemployment insurance as a safety net to pay their bills and put food on the table in the event of a strike.”

“As a grocery store worker who stood strong during the 2003-2004 strike, I know firsthand the financial strain that comes with standing up for our rights,” said UFCW Local 135 member John Garcia, Vons 2012. “Having a safety net like unemployment insurance for striking workers is crucial. It would ensure that we can fight for fair wages and better conditions without the fear of losing everything. Our voices matter, and this bill would give us the support we need to make lasting change.”

“I was a worker at Safeway in Sacramento during the 2003-2004 strike in SoCal and was at a store that was picketed,” said Alexis Soderstrum, a Safeway UFCW Local 5 member in Eureka for 23 years.  I talked to many of the workers and heard their stories of loss and what they went through during their fight for a better life. With the protection and support from SB 799, you can equal the playing field between big business and the workers, giving the workers the confidence and ability to fight for fair and better contracts instead of folding to monetary demands brought about by a strike.”

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August 25, 2023

Contact: Jenna Thompson, 949.246.1620, [email protected]