By Maya Luna
Chanting “Boycott Food 4 Less!”, workers and their supporters picketed outside of the Oxnard grocery store on Wednesday morning demanding a contract for higher wages and stronger benefits, which the Kroger-owned subsidiary has refused for months.
Protesters gathered with signs reading, “Boycott this store. Support Food 4 Less Workers,” and chanted, “Exploitation ain’t the way, give your workers better pay!”
The picket was independently led by workers, but was supported by the union local UFCW 770. The UFCW 770 website states that the wage increase that is currently being offered by Food 4 Less of $0.50 per year for three years would only apply to the 38% of employees at the top pay rate, and provides no increase to the rest of the workers.
One supporter of the strike spoke with Tribune saying, “50 cents a year? For three years? Come on! How much money do these stores make? Millions of dollars!”
The company is refusing the demand for a fourth week of vacation time for workers who have worked for the chain for 15 or more years. Ralphs, another chain of supermarkets owned by Chicago-based Kroger, offers a scholarship program to their employees and immediate family members, however this benefit is also being refused for Food 4 Less employees.
Workers also spoke out about the working conditions that they had to endure during the pandemic, with Food 4 Less refusing to enforce basic safety measures during the height of the pandemic.
“A lot of us were scared to come to work,” one worker told Tribune, “because we’re risking us, but not only that we’re afraid if we caught something we’re going to go home and risk our own families.”
Another worker mentioned that Food 4 Less has a general lack of concern for the health and well-being of its workers. There are about 15 employees with work restrictions due to injury or disability, and when one employee displayed a sign to notify customers of her restriction, she was asked by a boss to remove it.
Several cars honked in support and others expressed their solidarity for the striking workers. As one member of the community joined the protest, he said, “I gotta stay here, I can’t even go inside and shop.”
An activist from Oxnard Revolutionary Study Group also spoke at the event on the importance of workers’ unity, stating that together they could “make the bosses tremble,” receiving cheers from the crowd. Workers continued to point out the contradictions between the millions of dollars in profits the company gains from their labor and the paltry wages they earn in comparison. One worker said, “We deserve it… We all work hard… We deserve what we’re asking for.”
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