With a threatened strike by grocery workers looming, a Los Angeles city panel called Tuesday for the industry to explain why the level and quality of stores and services vary widely throughout the city. Amid concern that poorer areas of Los Angeles have been discriminated against with lower-quality stores, City Councilman Herb Wesson called on the supermarket chains to detail how their location decisions have been made. “I am concerned, when I look at my district, at the lack of quality grocery stores or those that want to downgrade their services,” Wesson said. “It is time to have a discussion with them about this inappropriate behavior. We reached out to the grocery representatives and asked them to be here, but they refused.” Representatives of the stores did not return telephone calls. “Despite the promises that were made after the civil unrest, we still do not have the stores that are so desperately needed.” But the report also questioned claims by the supermarket industry that it has lost money in inner-city areas where it has opened stores. And Wesson said some stores also have been unwilling to invest in improvements to help boost quality and services. Council President Eric Garcetti said he has worked with some markets in poorer areas of his district and believes a model can be developed for other areas of the city. “We want to make this a win-win for residents and the industry as well,” Garcetti said. “But we have to encourage the industry to get away from this two-tiered system. “When they take away health care for the workers and their families, guess who pays for it? We do.” firstname.lastname@example.org (213) 978-0390 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Contract negotiations are continuing with Vons, Albertsons and Ralphs supermarkets, but members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union have authorized a strike if a deal cannot be reached. On Monday, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor ratcheted up pressure by voting to boycott the stores and aid grocery workers if they decide to strike and are locked out by the supermarkets. Boosting pressure on the chains Tuesday, Wesson, chairman of the council’s Housing, Community and Economic Development Committee, praised a report by the Commission on the Los Angeles Grocery Industry that criticized a “two-tier” system of grocery services in Los Angeles that has led to fewer markets or lower quality in poorer areas of the city. The report by the volunteer panel said some areas of the city are “grocery deserts” due to a lack of service, contributing to health problems including obesity and diabetes. “Parts of Los Angeles are treated like a second-class city,” said the Rev. Norman Johnson of First New Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church and head of the panel.
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