Customers walk into Vons at the corner of East Broadway and Atlantic Ave. near Downtown Long Beach Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

More than 600 pharmacists and pharmacy workers at Albertsons, Pavilions, Ralphs and Vons locations in Long Beach and throughout Southern California could go on strike at any moment, union leaders announced Friday.

Members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324, which represents Long Beach grocery store workers, along with locals 8GS, 135, 770, 1167, 1428 and 1442 voted “overwhelmingly” to authorize union leaders to call for strikes, according to a joint statement.

No dates or locations have been set for the potential strike.

The vote, according to the statement, allows “pharmacists across California to stand up to protect their rights and ensure they have the ability to effectively serve their patients and communities.”

Negotiations between the unions and grocers resumed today.

UFCW Locals throughout the state have filed unfair labor practice charges against Albertsons, which also owns Vons and Pavilions, and Ralphs, a Kroger company, with the National Labor Relations Board. The union claims the companies are violating federal labor laws.

Specific allegations by the union include intimidation of and retaliation against pharmacists engaging in union activity, illegal interrogation of pharmacists about union activity, threatening action against them for engaging in union activity, attempting to bribe pharmacists with bonuses rather than negotiating wage increases, failure to provide staffing information and documents necessary for the bargaining process, and hiring temporary workers to undermine union activity.

“Our company is committed to continue to negotiate in good faith with the union locals until an agreement is reached that meets the needs of our pharmacy associates and ensures our customers have access to affordable medicines, while keeping stores competitive,” Ralphs spokesperson John Votava said in an email to the Business Journal Friday.

The charges against the grocer by the union “have nothing to do with our negotiations,” according to Votava. “It’s a fear tactic UFCW can use to call a strike and cause disruption for our company, associates and communities.”

Votava said the claims have not been investigated by the National Labor Relations Board, adding that Ralphs “follows the law and has not been notified of any wrongdoing.”

Representatives for the Albertsons brands did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In Long Beach, 15 pharmacists would go on strike, according to Local 324 spokesperson Jenna Thompson. Not every Long Beach store, however, has a pharmacy. The impacted stores include:

  • Pavilions, 5949 E. Spring St.
  • Ralphs, 2250 E. Carson St.
  • Ralphs, 6290 Pacific Coast Highway
  • Vons, 600 E. Broadway
  • Vons, 4550 Atlantic Ave.

“Southern California’s essential pharmacists have made their voices heard with this vote,” the unions stated. “They have made the difficult decision to stand together on the picket line should it become necessary in protest of the unlawful and unfair treatment they’ve received.”

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Business Journal.