Southern California grocery store workers voted to accept a new contract offering more pay and better working hours, avoiding a threatened strike action at Albertsons, Vons, and Ralphs grocery stores, including the stores in Santa Barbara County.

When the vote to strike was taken in March, negotiators for the grocery markets and for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union were about three dollars apart, with the workers demanding $5 per hour more over three years, and the companies offering less than $2. The new agreement increased wages by $4.25 over the life of the three-year contract, including for Food 4 Less workers, who negotiated an agreement with Kroger’s last year.

Ralphs, Albertsons, and Vons workers also received an increase from 24 to 28 hours a week for part-time work, reducing the time it took to move up the wage scale and giving them benefits sooner.

The pressures grocery workers faced during the pandemic were an issue for the unions, which pushed to add a provision to the new contract for health and safety committees at each grocery store. The workers now have a say in store safety and security policies that protect them and customers, according to a press release from the grocery workers’ union.

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