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COMPTON, Calif. - An internal company memo has revealed that, in a possible violation of federal law, Ralphs let locked-out employees work during the nearly five-month Southern California labor dispute.
"We have now determined that some of the reports of misconduct are correct," Ralphs President John Burgon wrote in a letter to employees last week. "Some members of Ralphs management did violate company policies and encouraged or permitted some locked-out employees to work during the strike."
The United Food and Commercial Workers union and federal authorities filed a lawsuit in January, claiming that the company allowed some supposedly striking employees to work under other names and Social Security numbers. The union dropped the suit, however, as part of the strike settlement on Feb. 29. Subsequently, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles convened a grand jury to find out if Ralphs store directors had violated federal criminal laws during the dispute. In addition, Cincinnati-based Kroger, Ralphs' parent company, could be liable for claims under the National Labor Relations Act.
According to Burgon's letter, the company is assisting with the U.S. Attorney's investigation, and any executives found to have been involved in illegal activities will be disciplined, with punishments ranging from a week's suspension to termination.
Mickey Kasparian, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135 in San Diego, told that city's Union Tribune newspaper that he believed high-ranking officials at Ralphs knew what was happening, and that the company's employees should be compensated for unemployment benefits, back pay, or contributions to the union's benefit fund.