Seemingly, goings-on in California shouldn’t make much difference to the average Montanan. But as deregulation taught us, California ripples can easily reach Montana—whether it’s energy prices or supermarket strikes.
For the last few weeks, employees in Southern California’s Albertson’s stores have been picketing for higher wages and more help with health care costs. To fill the shifts left by striking employees, Albertson’s is importing employees from “across the country to support our operations in Southern California,” says Albertson’s Public Affairs Director Daniel Killpack.
“Every division has sent people, and that includes the inter-mountain division where we operate stores out of Billings, Missoula and throughout Montana,” says Killpack.
Eastgate Albertson’s store Director Dennis Fisher says that none of his employees have made the trek, but says he’d heard other local Albertson’s had sent strikebreakers. Other Albertson’s store directors declined to confirm the information, but one local Albertson’s employee, speaking under the condition of anonymity, says that a handful of locals have gone to San Diego to fill striking employees’ shoes.
“The reason they go down there is they are getting paid a bunch of money,” says the employee. “They are getting California wages.”
The employee adds that anyone who goes receives a $40 per diem, and the company pays travel and lodging expenses. Killpack won’t confirm the amount of the per diem, but says that employees are compensated for lodging and travel. Beyond that, Killpack won’t release any information. She says that the safety of employees could be jeopardized if identifying information is leaked.
“Strikes tend to be incredibly volatile situations, so obviously the safety of our associates that are supporting us in this volatile division is a priority for us,” says Killpack.
Safety is a valid concern, the anonymous employee agrees.
“Those that have gone have been met with some hostility,” says the employee. “Which I can understand.”