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Live in S. California? Question for you...

jaults

First Post
My wife is working on something for school dealing with the supermarket strikes in Southern California last year, specifically the VONS/Safeway chains. If you live in an area that had a strike, VONS or otherwise, please reply. I have one or two questions I'd like to ask...

Thanks,
Jason
 

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Samothdm

First Post
Hi, there.

I live in Southern California. One of my best friends works at Albertson's and was "locked out" during that time period since he is a Union employee. My wife and I usually shop at Von's (Pavillion's) but during the entire time that the Union employees were locked out, we took our business elsewhere (either to Bristol Farms, Trader Joe's, Gelson's, or Stater Brothers).

Ask away!
 

jaults

First Post
Whoa, three minutes later! Have I mentioned that ENWorld is awesome?

Anyway, if you don't know, just skip it. Any answers you can provide will be very helpful. She is working on a project for a PR class, so these are PR-ish related questions...

1) Were current customers contacted in anyway (letter, email, website, etc) about the situation with the labor dispute during or after the strike?
2) Were there any signs placed in the stores, during or after the strike, communicating information about the labor dispute?

And two bonus questions for you, since you know someone that was locked out:
3) After the strike, did your friend feel as though he/she was treated differently by store management because he/she was a union member and had been locked out?
4) Was there information for employees after the labor dispute was resolved provided by the store, rather than by the union?

Thank you very much!
Jason
 

Samothdm

First Post
jaults said:
Whoa, three minutes later! Have I mentioned that ENWorld is awesome?

Certainly my favorite site. :)

jaults said:
1) Were current customers contacted in anyway (letter, email, website, etc) about the situation with the labor dispute during or after the strike?

Not to my knowledge. I have a Von's Club Card but I don't recall getting any literature to that effect. Then again, I tend to throw out about 99% of the mail I get so it's possible that I tossed it without reading it.

Regular advertising certainly slowed down (from my perception) but they did continue to advertise and put a lot of stuff on huge discounts to increase store traffic.

jaults said:
2) Were there any signs placed in the stores, during or after the strike, communicating information about the labor dispute?

I don't know about during because, as I mentioned, I avoided all of the chains involved in the dispute like the plague (Von's/Safeway/Pavillions, Ralph's, and Alberton's). I don't recall seeing any signs when we started going back after the disputes ended.

jaults said:
And two bonus questions for you, since you know someone that was locked out:
3) After the strike, did your friend feel as though he/she was treated differently by store management because he/she was a union member and had been locked out?

No, he really didn't. These things are usually handled at a much higher level. The way he explained it to me, all of the "regular" employees like checkers, baggers, etc. are required to join the Union to work at the store, but the Store Manager and the Grocery Manager are management and therefore not part of the Union. The dispute wasn't really between individual people like my friend and his Store and Grocery Managers. It was less personal - "employees versus corporation (management)." I hope that makes sense.

He does have extremely interesting stories to tell about being called as a witness during hearings held by the California Attorney General and some other government and labor parties regarding actions taking by individual store managers during the dispute which were illegal or at least very much against the spirit of the dispute.

For example, several store owners allowed certain key employees to continue working during the lockouts/strike by letting the employees works as "scabs" and use false Social Security Cards. My friend has pictures and documented several conversations with his managers about this, so he has proof that employees that should not have been working were still working. Other managers allowed specialists, like Pharmacists, to continue coming to work while still locking out the other employees. That's all illegal.

Since returning to work, however, people have been shifted around and he was actually promoted from "4th Key" to "3rd Key", so I don't think they hold any ill-will towards him.

jaults said:
4) Was there information for employees after the labor dispute was resolved provided by the store, rather than by the union?

This I don't know. I will try to get ahold of him and see what he has to say. He's at work right now, though. :)

Not sure if out there you understand how everything went down, but basically the Union only went on strike against one store (I believe it was Von's - but it may have been Ralph's). As soon as they did that, the other two stores involved in the dispute immediately locked out all Union employees. So, my friend was not on "strike" - he was locked out and not allowed to come to work. That was the biggest PR nightmare of the whole thing. The average person in California did not realize that the majority of the employees were actually just not allowed to work. My friend did not vote for the strike, and he certainly needs the money that he would have been making while working. But, Albertson's locked him out. I know that's standard procedure, but I think the Union did a horrible PR job of explaining this. My friend said that people who drive into the parking lot all the time and yell at him and the other picketers - "Get back to work, you lazy SOB!" and my friend would say, "I'm not allowed to go to work, Sir. Albertson's has locked me out."

The other huge issue was what I heard from people I know who continue to shop at the stores. The quality of help that the stores hired while the real employees were on strike was horrible. There was little, if any, training, so nobody knew where anything was, didn't know how to handle special requests, and had difficult doing simple cash-register transactions.

jaults said:
Thank you very much!
Jason

Of course - I hope the information was helpful, and I wish your wife luck on her paper. Does she plan to go into PR when she's out of school, or is this just a class she's taking for the units?
 

drothgery

First Post
jaults said:
Whoa, three minutes later! Have I mentioned that ENWorld is awesome?

Anyway, if you don't know, just skip it. Any answers you can provide will be very helpful. She is working on a project for a PR class, so these are PR-ish related questions...

1) Were current customers contacted in anyway (letter, email, website, etc) about the situation with the labor dispute during or after the strike?

There were a few full-page ads the stores placed in the Union-Tribune (San Diego's major newspaper); I think they did the same in the LA Times. But other than that, there wasn't anything beyond news coverage. I checked local news more often than I usually do during the strike, as I was shopping at a different grocery store than I normally did in order to avoid picketers (I didn't care one way or the other who was "right", but picketers annoy me).

jaults said:
2) Were there any signs placed in the stores, during or after the strike, communicating information about the labor dispute?

No, though some stores ran promotions that were effective at the end of the strike.
 

LeapingShark

First Post
1) No.
2) Information about the terms/issues surrounding the dispute seemed to be conveyed through the local news coverage. Inside the stores? If there were physical signs/posters I didn't see them anywhere. In any case, the oddly depleted ranks of checkers and the half-empty shelves were a glaring "sign" that a strike was definately going on. Outside the stores, there were picketers holding signs at every grocery store, every day, for months and months on end. Sometimes the strikers were merely lounging at the street curb sitting under umbrellas doing nothing (especially as the strike lingered through the summer into November and December), or sometimes they seemed to gather for much larger organized "rallies" in front of specific stores, forming blockades/tunnels and chanting or booing loudly at all the shoppers. One friend said he was physically intimidated and verbally harassed as he went to buy groceries near his house (south Orange County), so he grew to hate the picketers. At the local stores near me, there was one incident where the police had to be called in to clear the picketers away because they were causing a traffic gridlock in the parking lot. But other than that, the picketers I saw were friendly (most of them I recognized, they almost feel like "neighbors" since I shop at the 3 local groceries alot). On TV news clips we often saw picketers harassing the overnight/morning delivery truck drivers. The fun part about the whole deal was that throughout the entire strike, passing cars would honk their horns at picketers in a show of support; and since virtually every grocery store was on strike, there was alot of horn honking going on all over the place as you drove down various streets going from place to place. I used my horn alot that summer, just to join in on the fun!
 
Last edited:

Doc_Klueless

Doors and Corners
jaults said:
Anyway, if you don't know, just skip it. Any answers you can provide will be very helpful. She is working on a project for a PR class, so these are PR-ish related questions...

1) Were current customers contacted in anyway (letter, email, website, etc) about the situation with the labor dispute during or after the strike?
Customers were, at times, approached by picketers if they tried to use the store the strikers were in front of, with flyers, pamphlets, etc. and, once they made it in the store, had to listen to the overhead speaker mentioning that service may be disrupted by the strike. The store shelves were pretty empty (especially the meat department). Few cashiers on hand.

The newspaper (LA Times) was the major source of info about the strike and what was going on. I read the times daily online. Saw lots of stuff about the strike.

OT: What I found disturbing was some (a tiny minority, to be sure) of the picketers were downright rude and disruptive of some of the people using the stores. While I can understand their wanting to improve their work conditions, some of the customers they hastled were elderly/indegent/poor people going to their neighborhood store because they 1) couldn't afford to take transport to another, distant store, 2) didn't have transport to go to another, distant store, or 3) didn't know where another, distant store was located.

One particular picketer became really hostile when I suggested that if he wanted some of the above customers to go to other stores, he should give them a ride. Sometimes people go to the stores they go to because it's the only store they can get to.

Of course, I have to admit that, being from Texas (a pretty much non-union state) and don't fully understand unions and can't sympathize with their plight.

2) Were there any signs placed in the stores, during or after the strike, communicating information about the labor dispute?
Sometimes, even on the front door. (I saw it there once.)
 

Doc_Klueless

Doors and Corners
Samothdm said:
Not sure if out there you understand how everything went down, but basically the Union only went on strike against one store (I believe it was Von's - but it may have been Ralph's). As soon as they did that, the other two stores involved in the dispute immediately locked out all Union employees. So, my friend was not on "strike" - he was locked out and not allowed to come to work. That was the biggest PR nightmare of the whole thing. The average person in California did not realize that the majority of the employees were actually just not allowed to work. My friend did not vote for the strike, and he certainly needs the money that he would have been making while working. But, Albertson's locked him out. I know that's standard procedure, but I think the Union did a horrible PR job of explaining this.
Definitely, most of you average citizens thought that it was just a plain ol' employee strike. The lockout thing was mentioned, I think, once in the LA Times and it was pretty buried there.

I do recall the stores running full page adds blasting the union (pretty much)
 

tarchon

First Post
jaults said:
Whoa, three minutes later! Have I mentioned that ENWorld is awesome?

Anyway, if you don't know, just skip it. Any answers you can provide will be very helpful. She is working on a project for a PR class, so these are PR-ish related questions...

1) Were current customers contacted in anyway (letter, email, website, etc) about the situation with the labor dispute during or after the strike?
2) Were there any signs placed in the stores, during or after the strike, communicating information about the labor dispute?
1) - I wasn't contacted by the store, though the union was very active in handing me flyers as I walked by.
2) - I remember signs about reduced hours but nothing specifically regarding the dispute. Though I should point out that that was only from an outside view. I was never actually in one while they were picketing.
 
Last edited:

mythusmage

First Post
1. Not from the stores. The local media (San Diego) did make a point of informing people it was a lockout.

2. Bulletins regarding the labor dispute were put up in the Ralphs down the street from my apartment building. Which came down when the union suspended picketing in front of Ralphs stores in San Diego County because of the 2003 fires.

Other than that, nothing much I could tell you.
 


jaults

First Post
Thank you for helping

All of your responses were really very helpful to me...

Since we live on the East coast, it was really hard to track down information on the strike that wasn't written in online newspapers... and nobody seemed to look at how much/ how well Vons communicated with customers and employees during or after the strike. From your responses, it sounds like the answer is not much/poorly.

Thank you all for taking the time to write!

Jennifer (Jason's wife)
 

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