El Super grocery store workers, union officials and their supporters staged a rally last week outside a Rialto store location in hopes of calling attention to issues the chain’s employees are struggling with–fair wages, sick leave and respect.
The rally–a peaceful demonstration at the store located in the Five Point Plaza along Merrill and Riverside avenues–brought out more than 100 people July 10 with signs and banners voicing concerns for workers.
It also drew support from neighboring civic leaders as well as Rialto Mayor Deborah Robertson.
“This is her community and it was great to see her out there supporting and understanding the issues affecting workers. She was right there with her community,” said Yesenia Gonzalez, an organizer for the Rialto rally representing the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1167.
Workers from El Super’s seven union stores from across Orange County to the Los Angeles area, all represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, have been rallying at several locations demanding rights to a living wage, more guaranteed hours and paid sick leave. They’ve been negotiating a new contract with the chain, after a previous collective bargaining agreement with the store expired in September.
“Workers don’t want to strike,” said Gonzalez. “Right now the focus is negotiating a contract for members in the seven stores, but support comes from everywhere.”
While the issues on the bargaining table revolve around fair contracts for union workers, 40-hour work weeks and paid sick time, among other issues, workers in Rialto were voicing concerns over “worker respect” and how El Super should be a “good community member.”
The two-hour demonstration was an aim to voice that the market should be a good community members since it is dependent on the community itself, said Gonzalez.
“The workers and shoppers are all local, so without them, the store just wouldn’t be,” she said. “That’s why it’s important for (El Super) to understand the need to be supportive. Their workers just want respect on the job. If you get respect, a lot of other things come with it.”
And that is the aim of the demonstrations, Gonzalez added.
“That’s the step they’re taking here.”
Gonzalez said union workers have been in negotiations for more than nine months and unfortunately things have not progressed.
Since employees at El Super are denied sick pay, several workers have reported to work sick at area stores–a risky move–Gonzalez says, since workers are handling food and produce items.
“They come to work sick and have the potential of getting other workers sick, not to mention customers.”
But workers feel they don’t have a choice, Gonzalez says, and they’re making the decision go into work sick because they can’t afford to take the time off.
“It’s their livelihood that’s at stake. They’re doing what they have to do.”
The company, Gonzalez said, gave their final offer in April and workers voted to reject the proposal. A strike vote was given on May 2.
Gonzalez added that a strike vote was given May 2.
The talks, or lack of, are concerning for store workers in Rialto even though it is not one of the union locations.
As talks continue, union workers and their supporters will keep taking to the streets to voice issues in hopes of fair contracts for all El Super workers.
“The one thing to remember here is what happens at the union stores has a domino effect on the other stores,” Gonzalez said. “The nonunion store workers are also affected and can also benefit to some degree from negotiation outcomes. In the end, it’s ultimately about justice for all El Super workers.”