Ralphs’ Workers Aren’t the Only Ones Getting Played

ralphs grocery strickI don’t work at a grocery store. I don’t even shop at the stores in question anymore. And even though I might sympathize with the worker’s position, I can’t honestly say I’m in support of them going on strike. But none this would stop me from picking up a sign and joining the workers on the picket line–and if in fact there is a strike, I probably will.

Crenshaw and Coliseum, Manchester and Western, Slauson and Crenshaw, Compton and Alameda, and Vermont and 120th streets are just a few of Ralphs’ South Los Angeles locations in dire need of a makeover and have been ever since they were known as The Boys, Alpha Beta, and ABC markets.

When I think about it, the only thing that has changed since those stores were taken over by Ralph’s in the early 1990’s, are the increase in prices and the sign on the outside of the building.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that Ralphs was trying to pass off these stores as “Historic Cultural Monuments” because they can only be found in African-American and Latino neighborhoods.

Unlike their Third and Labrea and Fountain and Labrea stores on the west side of Los Angeles, which cater to a lighter shade of customers, or their Vermont and Adams store that bends over backwards to attract USC students, South Los Angeles patrons have to put up with dimly lit stores that continue to hide the true appearance of the produce, fruit, and poultry and fish being sold. Add to that, narrow aisles, old shopping carts, small parking lots and an even smaller selection of products to choose from.

And don’t even get me started on their newly built 50,000 square-foot downtown Los Angeles location that caters to L.A.’s loft dwellers, where grocery shopping takes on whole new meaning.

Ralphs’ Fresh Fare as it’s being called offers expanded grocery, liquor, fresh and organic produce, and floral departments, a fully staffed meat department, and a wine cellar—a wine cellar! Oh and did I mention the sushi, soup, and salad bar?

Look—we want sushi in the hood. We want a cheese selection that doesn’t begin and end with cheddar and mozzarella. How about bringing some of that fresh and organic produce to a community of overweight and obese people where French fries are often considered a vegetable?

Before Ralphs builds another store in Los Angeles, they need to take care of unfinished business in South Los Angeles. Whether it’s cash, credit, or E.B.T., our money and patronage contributes to their profits and bottom line just as much as the folks on the west side or in downtown Los Angeles. Black and Latino mothers and grandmothers deserve to have the same shopping experience offered to white soccer mom’s on the west side. And our children deserve the benefits of clean and modern grocery stores with a wide variety of products to choose from—we eat more than just Top Ramen and fried chicken.

jasmyne cannickRalphs may be getting over on their employees when it comes to concessions regarding health care benefits, but they’ve been playing their South Los Angeles customers for idiots for far longer.

Ralphs may not be sweating the decision of their workers to call a strike, but they should be trembling in their boots if their South Los Angeles customers follow suit and join them on the picket line. And if you ask me, they should.

Jasmyne Cannick
jasmynecannick.com

A former Ralph’s turned Fresh & Easy customer, Jasmyne A. Cannick writes about the intersection of race, sex, politics, and pop culture from an unapologetically Black point of view.

Published by the LA Progressive on September 17, 2011
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About Jasmyne Cannick

Jasmyne is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the intersection of pop culture, race, class, and politics as played out in the African-American community. An award-winning journalist who previously worked in the U.S. House of Representatives as a press secretary, Jasmyne was selected as one of ESSENCE Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World and is a regular contributor to National Public Radio’s “News and Notes.” She is currently working as a political consultant in California on local and state campaigns.

Comments

  1. THANK YOU for you article ! .

    I wouldn’t have crossed the picket line as I’m a proud Union Member (SEIU721) .

    Ralph’s was trying to bust the Union , I am glad they didn’t succeed .

    -Nate

  2. John C. Robinson says:

    Ralphs is not going to stay open should there be a strike, their goal being to permanately lock out the union.
    This is a scheme to bust the local union, it does not matter what neighborhood the store is in, this is a move against democracy in the work place and a threat to democracy can not be tolerated in any corner of this nation.
    Ms. Cannick we have a consumer driven society, as consumers the only way open to us to protest is through the action of boycott, make a sign, make a lot of signs, start picket lines with your neighbors, get in Ralph’s face.

  3. Karen Wingard says:

    I’m not ignoring the fact that the supermarkets don’t recognize that the people in South L.A. also need to eat, I’m just apalled at the pitch for Fresh & Easy. One can do better at ethnic markets, where at least the checkers are human.

  4. Karen Wingard says:

    I don’t shop Ralph’s either anymore, because I discovered that the prices are often lower for higher quality merchandise at “upscale” and also union Gelson’s. You won’t see me cross the threshhold of a Fresh & Easy, though, where middle class jobs have been replaced by machines.

  5. Thanks for resending this. It’s trenchant commentary well worth reading.

    • Excellent article. I grew up going to the Manchester&Western store, I think it was either Food Giant or Alpha Beta 45+ years ago; the building housing a grocery store is one of the few things still in existence all these years later (along with the Bank of America, which I guess says something). I was going to say we (esp. union members) might want to again honor the picket lines, and take the trade to Trader Joe’s or Fresh n Easy… but sounds like a general boycott is in order in South Central. Make them feel the pain. This is what happens in a “free market” – which ususally results in a monopoly, or collusion (as happened with the big strike in ’03-04). But unfortunately, they are apt to just shut the place down, further screwing the locals. Sorry to hear it.

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