Over 100 workers, labor leaders, community activists, students and clergy members gathered outside a South Los Angeles El Super store on March 7 to demand a fair contract for union grocery workers at the chain. UFCW Local 770 workers and supporters delivered a letter to the store’s managers expressing the urgency of the workers’ need for the company to negotiate fairly with the workers, who delivered over 9,000 signatures from customers in support of their efforts to the negotiating team on Feb. 21st.
“We would like the company to pay us sick leave and give us 40 hours a week – a real full time job,” said Fermin Rodriguez, a cashier and shop steward at El Super #13 where the rally took place. “All workers at El Super deserve to be healthy and that’s why we are asking for sick leave. We’re here to send a message to workers and families that we will keep fighting for you and won’t give up until we win. Every El Super worker deserves a fair contract.”
Reverend Smart of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference kicked off the protest with a prayer for justice, and was joined by Ricardo Mendoza from the office of Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, who expressed her support for the workers’ demands. Community activist leaders from CLUE LA, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE), OURWalmart, Chinatown Community for Equitable Development (CCED), Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation (SCALE), SAJE, Coalition for Economic Survival, Professional Musicians Local 47, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, AFL-CIO, Restaurant Opportunities Center LA, the Jewish Labor Committee and the Clean Carwash Campaign stood up and expressed their support for the workers at El Super #13 and the hundreds of other El Super workers across seven Southern California stores who are fighting for a fair contract.
A Target grocery cart outside El Super #13. The company regularly uses other stores’ carts in an effort to cut costs.
Martin Ayala, who has worked as a meat clerk at the El Super store at Vermont and Slauson for five years, explained why he was marching: “We are fighting for our benefits and for our rights because the El Super company has rejected all of what we’ve asked for at the bargaining committee. We’re asking for sick days because it’s important – we come in to work sick, which is not respectful for the workers or the customers in the committee. We are forced to work sick and we handle food, so this is not good.”
Among the issues that El Super has refused to address in bargaining are respect on the job, seniority rights, health benefits and a guarantee of 40 hours per week for full time workers. The Mexico-based retailer that owns 80% of El Super, Grupo Comercial Chedraui took in $120 million in 2012, and co-President Alfredo Chedraui Obeso’s net worth was reported to be over $1 billion as of January, 2013.